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Gary Younge
Bring in da music teacher

Music lessons, once the staple diet of middle-class, extra-curricular education, just got hip. From the Scratch DJ academy, among others, come DJ classes, bringing a whole new meaning to the three R's so vital to a good academic grounding, which now stand for rap, rhyme and rhythm.

"I tried guitar, but it wasn't fun," says 13-year-old Graham Golden. "I want to be like Funkmaster Flex."

The Manhattan-based academy, founded by Rob Principe, Jason Mizell aka Jam Master Jay of Run DMC, and Reg E Gaines, the author of Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk, sells itself as a progressive education and production organisation focusing on the education and training of the music DJ. It is just one of many across the country. One school in Rhode Island has as many members of its DJ club as the piano club, while "Turntable technique: the art of the DJ" is one of publisher Berklee Press's top sellers.

The curriculum at the DJ academy covers everything from the "History of DJing" to the Jay Master Jay taught "Art of Blending and Mixing". Associate professors include DJ Premier of Gang Starr, Mista Sinista of The X-ecutioners, and DJ Green Lantern of NY's Hot 97 radio.

But if American parents resist it will not be merely because of nostalgia for the more respectable days of the piano lesson. Their reluctance will also have something to do with the exorbitant cost. A pair of top-brand turntables stands at at least $1,000 (£630), and that's before you get to mixers, speakers, headphones and records.

All said and done, it might be cheaper to teach your child to play Wagner than to "orbit", "crab" and "chirp" (just three of the 60 types of scratching) like Tim Westwood.

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