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Video: Meet The Stepper, teenage music DJ
Published 13/05/13

WHILE most of his classmates are thinking about their GCSEs, a Henley teenager is taking his first steps as a DJ.

Click here to watch our special video interview.

Ross Duncan plays at functions as The Stepper using more than 1,000 of music equipment bought with his savings.

The 15-year-old Gillotts School pupil has already appeared at three children’s birthday parties and he has several more events lined up over the summer, including a barbecue at Sacred Heart Primary School in Greys Road.

Ross, an accomplished drummer, saved up for two years by asking for cash instead of birthday and Christmas presents as well as doing paid chores for his parents, Sue and Andy.

He bought a DJ controller, which plugs into a laptop and allows him to play music from it. He also has a set of lights and a pair of speakers as well as a smoke machine he was given by an appreciative parent.

Customers have also given him vouchers for online music store iTunes, which has allowed him to expand his music collection.

Ross first put his skills to the test when he played at a party organised by a friend of his 13-year-old sister Ellie last summer and followed this up by DJing at his family’s Christmas party.

He got his first paid gig in March after advertising on the internet and hopes that word of mouth will lead to more bookings.

His mother drives him to gigs and takes photos and films videos, which he edits.

Ross has joined the Musicians’ Union and has liability insurance and eventually hopes to obtain a public performance licence so he can play at any venue.

He plans to go to The Henley College and then university to study music technology and hopes to become a music software designer or a recording studio engineer while being a DJ in his spare time.

“I’ve always been fascinated by how DJs operate,” said Ross. “There’s always a DJ booth at places like holiday camps and when I was little I used to take a real interest in how it all worked.

“I’m mostly self-taught, although there are a couple of videos on YouTube that have given me some useful hints.

“The first party was a bit difficult as I didn’t have all the songs they requested but since then I’ve done much better at bringing the right songs and using the microphone correctly.”

Ross’ passion for music started when he was bought a toy drum kit at the age of five. He took his first lessons while he was at St Mary’s School in St Andrew’s Road and has gone on to reach grade 8.

He was 10 when he began staging “discos” in his living room using his father’s hi-fi and a mirror ball.

In his early teens, he focused mostly on drumming but his love of DJing was rekindled when he began listening to dubstep, a type of dance music.

Ross’ DJ name comes from his love of the genre, which is characterised by its slow, syncopated rhythms and emphasis on loud, throbbing bass melodies. The teenager uses computer software to compose his own dubstep tunes. He said: “I’ve really been inspired by famous DJs like Skrillex, Deadmau5 and Knife Party, so I’m aiming to take this further and play at clubs and raves, although that’s probably going to be a side career for me.

“It would be great to work in a studio during the day and then hit the clubs at night. I’d be working alongside lots of like-minded people.

“I went to see Skrillex perform at the SW4 festival in London last year and I just thought, ‘that’s going to be me up there a few years from now’.” Mrs Duncan said: “He’s done marvellously well, although he needs me to drive him around and take videos so I’m always in the background.

“He was into music from an early age and even used to bang pots and pans in time as a baby. I think the people who have asked him to perform have been very brave in trusting that a 15-year-old will do a good job but word is getting around that he’s very good at it.

“We’ve got videos of 50 kids jumping around in front of the desk, which is all the proof you need. One little girl came up to him after the Badgemore[school] party and said ‘you’re the best DJ ever’, which was really sweet.

“You can imagine that as soon as he turns 18 we’re going to have to go on holiday to Ibiza.”

Gillotts headteacher Catharine Darnton said: “This is a very exciting venture for Ross and I am very proud and impressed that he has shown so much initiative in setting up this work experience for himself. We wish him every success.”

Published 13/05/13

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