By Juliana – 1st year student
Inspired by a similar program in Leeds, UK, Dan Ellis, 2nd year, has taken it upon himself to establish and pioneer Quest’s very own Equaliser program.
Equaliser is a DJ training program for femme, trans, non-binary and queer folk, whose aim is to provide high quality DJ training workshops to combat the inaccessibility of DJ-ing to femme and queer+ people in a hetero-masculine dominated industry. Applicants went through a rigorous and highly selective application process, in which they had one week to curate a twenty-song playlist, and to write a one page artist’s statement. Dan, along with a team of other student DJ’s were on the Equaliser committee to select the new members of Equaliser. Having been accepted into the Equaliser program myself, I wanted to take the opportunity to share how incredible this initiative is. I interviewed Dan Ellis to find out more about the history of the program and his vision for Equaliser and other music endeavors here at Quest.
Juliana: What is Equaliser and why did you want to start this ? What inspired you to?
Dan: So I’ll start with what inspired me. My friend, Marcus, has a girlfriend called Ranyue, and they’re both at school in Leeds, England. I think Ranyue is doing a Master’s in Jazz music production. She’s from China and she came over from China to do that course, so I think she’s only been in Leeds for 2 years. She’s also an incredible source of amazing music, and so, inevitably, she became a DJ. She’s part of this group of DJ’s called Brudenell Groove, and I think Brudenell is the street that they live on. I’ve been to some of their gigs through Marcus, they were great. Leeds has a thriving DJ community and music scene, and much like the rest of DJ-ing worldwide, I think it’s largely male-dominated and so in response, Ranyue started this workshop series, to introduce non-Djs to DJ-ing, but specifically, female, transgender, non-binary DJ’s into DJ-ing. I think the way they do it is that they have a workshop and it’s open to the public, and then afterwards, they have a little party, and loads of people come to the parties, and the cover for the parties covers the cost of running the workshops and everything.
So it’s called Equaliser, they’re these kind of workshop/parties, and I think it’s a really neat concept because it’s kind of everything under one roof, so it’s the workshop reaching out to the community, teaching female DJs, transgender DJs, non-binary DJs how to DJ, and then it’s also like a collective of female+ DJs that play parties and shows and stuff and they’re like really good. I think it’s a really perfect example of art, just creating the change we want to see in the world, and there’s nothing confrontational or [any] negative fallout, everyone enjoys this great thing that’s happening, if you know what I mean, yeah.
We’ve kind of created a similar project, inspired by that project Equaliser, that we’ve now created a Quest Equaliser which is now starting off, as we don’t have, to my knowledge, a large enough group at Quest of female DJs to start a collective, I don’t even know if we have a female DJ at Quest, but I can’t be totally sure of that. But we’ve started a Quest Equaliser, which at the moment is just a workshop series, and at the moment we’ve got 8 female and non-binary, transgender DJs that are learning to DJ from a variety of DJs, and we had one guest workshop, with Erica Dee. She’s a local from Vancouver, she DJs professionally, she DJs at Shambhala, which is a huge music festival, she’s DJed all over the world, and she did our workshop and it was great and really fun, and then hopefully as we go on, we have more guests and more workshops, more guest DJs running workshops, and then, my dream is that it eventually turns into this great collective that plays shows not just in Squamish but everywhere else as well.
Juliana: So, what are Quest Nights and how will Equaliser influence Quest Nights in the future?
Dan: So, Quest Nights are a monthly night that happens at the local nightclub called the Knotty Burl, and Quest Nights are nights basically curated and run by the Quest student body. We have exclusively Quest student or alumni artists playing music, we have bands, we have DJs, Quest visual artists make the posters, and the community will go down in shuttles. I like to think of it as a healing and supportive and regenerative place where we can all get together and really be together in a kind of way that encourages this kind of familial and friendly and nurturing atmosphere, so that we can all get loose somewhere off campus with a great sound system, hear great artists, really be informed culturally, through music and art, but also just relax and be together and forget ambition and forget stuff like that. I guess I think of it as an alternative, secular, contemporary church in some ways, it provides the same nurturing aspects of community. I hope that Equaliser will become a night of its own. And that in turn we’ll also have DJs at Equaliser DJ at Quest nights.
Juliana: What do we already have established at Quest in terms of other things with the musical community?
Dan: We’ve got a good music community at Quest, we took a bit of a hit last year with the dissolution of the Music Bay, but I think that was a good thing, because we got it back full force, and I think having momentarily lost it, I think it sparked a passion in the students to create, a thriving art scene at Quest and multimedia art, not just music, and that’s really happened. To my knowledge, this is one of the strongest years artistically that we’ll see at Quest. There have been great things happening so far and great things will happen throughout the rest of the year. To speak about music specifically we have to my knowledge, 2 really great bands. Unfortunately they’re made up of like fourth years, and second years, and etc. some will graduate, and we’ll lose them and that’s naturally just like the way it goes, but one of them already played at a Quest Night, and they played a great sort of acoustic show upstairs in one of the residences, it was fantastic and they recorded it.
Juliana: What would you say to prospective students who are artistically inclined or want to participate in the arts and music community here at Quest?
Dan: I just think no matter what you’re interested in, it’s very readily possible out of your enrollment at Quest, and that’s really not true for like other institutions. Like, this institution, has like, one person that is the head of every department, or like, at absolute maximum there’s maybe two people that are organizers of a department, that is if you even need the support of a department for whatever you’re interested in doing, which like, none of the things that I’m interested in doing have needed. So, at other universities, there are swaths of people, you know, if you’re at UBC, there’s like 50,000 students, no one knows what your name is, it’s like impossible to find out who you have to speak with. At Quest, there’s one academic building, you know everyone by name, there’s space, this is like a new place, it’s only half built, if that, and so, people really encourage the creation of new things, and if you’re the person that’s interested in creating something, then that’s a very exciting prospect. Quest is in some sense like a blank canvas. So to provide some examples, when I got here, we had a varsity basketball team and a varsity soccer team, and those are built into the infrastructure here because we have a soccer field and a basketball court, but now we have a varsity rugby team, and a varsity volleyball team, all of which were started last year and became varsity last year. Now they are permanent fixtures with institutional funding and scholarships for athletes, you know, kits paid for by the school, access to all the athlete stuff, it’s incredible, right? The athletics have doubled, in the time that I’ve been here, which is not even that long. We also have a varsity official climbing team, that also get the similar kind of benefits, we have all sorts of one-off individual athletes create their own thing here, and you can really just be an individual, with individual interest. We even have professional skateboarders, professional skiiers, you can just do your thing here, and you’ll be supported if you go about it in the right way. Quest Nights was just created by a student, and now it’s this whole self-sustaining thing that is full of artistry and funding and interesting things that happen, and honestly, it’s hard to find something that wasn’t created by students. The climbing gym was built by a student. The recording studio was built by a student. The recording studio was funded by the school I think, and the climbing gym was funded by the SRC. The SRC has a massive budget which is just there for you to play with your creativity and create interesting things, so that’s what I would say to students coming here, ya know, if you’re a creative person, if you’re interested in playing music or something, it’s fine, there will be more opportunities to do music and stuff like that, there are opportunities to join the basketball team, the soccer team, the volleyball team, the rugby team, etc, but if there’s something that you’re worried about there not being much of here, if it’s the kind of thing that you can see yourself being interested in making happen, and pioneering, and being the leader for that thing, like, honestly I can’t think of a better university to be the creator and the leader of this new thing in.
**Credit for the photos and workshop goes to Quest Student, Dan**