• About: The Foxgrove

    Photos by Nina Westervelt

    From the Manhattan street, 43 West 29th looks like a bodega. There’s a set of stairs that take you from the street up four floors to a large wooden door, a warm fixture compared to the metal and plaster of the stairwell. 

    On the other side of the door, a dim lobby with a wooden table sits in the middle of a setting of a leather couch and plush seats. Chocolate truffles, granola bars and bananas are organized on the table. The walls and floors are dark; perhaps sitting on the couch would lull you into a deep sleep. Candles flicker, a pretty, yet potent fragrance emitting; calming and sweet. 

    But The Foxgrove is not a spa, it is not a spiritual guidance center. It is a school — for DJs.

    However, opposed to many organizations that bill themselves as the ultimate destination in producing top-notch DJ talent, The Foxgrove prides itself on helping the little guys, the novices, the folks who want an unconventional after-work activity, an alternative bachelorette party idea, a workplace bonding experience. You won’t walk away from a singular class at The Foxgrove able to DJ the hottest nightclub, but you will have an understanding of the basics — and you’ll have a good time doing it.

    Developed two years ago by Natalie Lam, who’s background is in advertising, and her partner David Maurice, a songwriter and producer who’s worked with Jay-Z, Culture Club, and a handful of other artists (who’ve worked with him in the space’s professional recording studio, no less) The Foxgrove aims to pull back the curtain on the often-intimidating world of electronic music.

    “We got together and asked, ‘Everyone loves music, what's next to make them love it more?’” Natalie recalls. “So we set out to break down the barriers between the roles of ‘artists’ created by the music industry, and bringing the pleasure of creating, interacting with music to the public.”

    It’s a proudly amateur-friendly approach that’s led a primarily female student base to the center. Paired with the ambiance, the natural-light filled classroom outfitted with sturdy reclaimed wood tables and an exposed brick wall, and the message that no creator is too untrained, The Foxgrove has emerged as a safe space for individuals who aim to learn a trade in a highly male-dominated industry. Natalie and David liken it to a happy-hour substitute or a French culinary course. 

    “They teach you how to make a soufflé, but you don’t go and open a restaurant [after],” David says. The fun part is just saying you did it.

    In a three-hour introductory music production course, every student is set up on an iMac and with Ableton, the program and controller that allows users to trigger beats, loops and song samples. The Foxgrove has pre-loaded various house, techno and other dance beats, along with clips from popular tracks from the likes of Taylor Swift and Drake. Layer by layer, an instructor will walk you through how to play each facet of a song using Ableton — and how to pair all the parts together in a way that sounds good.

    It's like taking your favorite song and trying to remix it: easy in your head, a little bit harder on paper — or Ableton, rather. There's a patience, an almost science-like methodology that comes with transferring the musical landscape that plays in your head into reality. And that's where time for tinkering comes in handy.

    From creating your own beats by manually tapping various buttons on the Ableton Push controller to adding reverb to a sample of music, the course allows for extended experimentation time — an hour of the class is dedicated to students creating their own sonic creation. 

    Most importantly, students are encouraged to ask questions, play, push buttons and see how it sounds. It’s exciting to be getting a hands-on experience using the same production equipment as the pros, though The Foxgrove eliminates any pretense and allows for an open creative experience. 

    So, yeah, you won't leave an introductory class ready to be the next Skrillex, but you will be one step closer, but most importantly, you'll have a piece of music to walk away with.

    “Music is the last frontier that's still largely divided into the pros and the public,” Natalie says. “We saw an opportunity that with the advancement of accessible and affordable music technology, the public can easily learn to be hands on and become amateur creators.”

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