David Day: A Profile

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Joe Crook was an intern for us at Mmmmaven and he recently wrapped up a profile on our Co-Director David Day for his classes at Brandeis University in Waltham. We thought we’d share it with you.

Though its roots extend back to early 1980s Detroit and Chicago, electronic music is only now breaking into the American mainstream. David Day has been at the forefront of the sound’s many trends and incarnations since his college days in the early 1990s, which were spent largely behind the decks at KJHK, the University of Kansas radio station.

Day now holds the title of Creative Director at Mmmmaven, a company he founded together with Alexander Maniatis in order to teach those interested in the growing electronic scene its history, how to effectively DJ its music, and to offer courses specializing in the details that define digital music. Together is also the name of the festival Day and his crew have organized for the past five years, one that combines music, art, and technology over a week of shows, conferences, discussions and demos that touch on different aspects of the music/art/technology sector.

In case that’s not enough work for one person, Day also started a weekly event at Cambridge’s Middlesex Lounge that has seen some of the DJ world’s most prolific and diverse international acts through its doors. The event, Make It New, is held every Thursday night and celebrated its tenth anniversary last year, a rare honor among the small but growing Boston scene.

A common thread runs through each of the projects Day helms-–an emphasis on the fresh and the new. He has been ahead of the curve so long that it seems the mainstream may finally be catching up to him.

“An old friend once told me,” Day begins, “I don’t watch the same movies or read the same books I did in high school, so why should I listen to the same music?”

This was 25 years ago. The idea has shaped his path ever since.

David Day is from the Midwest. “Growing up there inspired me more than anything to get out,” he said. Wichita, Kansas, where Day was raised, is at least a 10-hour drive from either Chicago or Detroit, the electronic music hubs of the time. In a land “devoid of culture,” he and his family bonded over music. However, even with a piano in the house, he was never much of an instrumentalist. “I tried a couple times, but never had much musical talent,” he admits. Given his pivotal role in the Boston music scene, it’s hard to take this as fact.

Mmmmaven, the music school, is currently where Day focuses most of his time and energy, specifically on nurturing the untapped musical talent throughout Boston. The most enjoyable aspect of his life right now is “… signing checks. Paying people for their knowledge. I wouldn’t have believed 10 years ago I’d be so involved in the education business, but it makes total sense to me now.”

Ten years ago, Day was just still adjusting to the T’s limited hours and the overall slower pace of life in Boston after leaving behind a three year stint in Manhattan, where he spent most of his time working at Other Music, New York’s go-to record shop for underground sounds. “Other Music showed me how to be professional. It taught me how to treat artists with respect and take music seriously while still having fun,” Day remembers. This lesson has translated into enormous success for the Together Boston. Critically lauded artists such as Oneohtrix Point Never, recently deceased footwork producer DJ Rashad, and Best Album Grammy-winner Todd Edwards are among the many well-known acts that have graced the festival over the past five years.

Having been in the music industry for the 20 years, Day also understands the importance of nurturing the local music scene. This is why they place Boston-based artists, such as on-the-rise producers John Barera and Ricardo Donoso, on the same bill as top-notch headliners.

Along similar lines, Mmmmaven already has a handful of success stories in its short, two-year history. DJ Commerce is a shining example. A former Mmmmaven DJ course student, Commerce has been opening for big names all across Boston. On one of these occasions, Day ran into Commerce’s parents in the crowd.

After the show, Commerce’s parents approached Day and thanked him immensely. “You’ve reinvigorated my son, his life has changed,” Commerce’s father said. That moment, Day remembers, was powerful for him both personally and for the future possibilities of the music school.

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While seeming like a strange move at the time, Day was, once again, ahead of the curve in making the split to Boston from New York back in 2001. “New York is seen as a cultural mecca, and it is, but people there feel the need to be constantly playing shows and putting themselves out there. In Boston, people don’t feel the pressure as much. It’s less stifling on creativity,” he said. And with Boston’s collegiate atmosphere, burgeoning tech industry, and progressive stance toward the arts, Mmmmaven found an arguably better home in the cultural district of Central Square than they ever could have imagined in downtown Manhattan. “We knew we were onto something when Mayor Menino, impressed by the first iteration of Together Boston, officially proclaimed April 17, 2011 to be Together Boston Day. That was huge.”

Having entered the education field, and having experienced firsthand the symbiotic relationship between teacher and student, Day has become increasingly educated and impassioned about the direction US education is heading in.

“S.T.E.M. is good, but S.T.E.A.M. is great. That’s where the future is at,” Day declared.

S.T.E.M. refers to the national education emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. S.T.E.A.M. throws Art into the equation. “The information age emphasized logical, linear thinking. That gave us a lot of backroom innovation. Now, we’re entering the conceptual age. We’ve created all these advanced, computer-based tools, and now we need to connect the dots. If we want to reclaim the top spot in innovation globally, we need more creative, artistic minds using digital means to create beautiful art.”

David Day has been pushing the music scene for the better part of 20 years. Now that DJ/Producers like Skrillex and Diplo have become household names, his eyes are set on revolutionizing the education industry. With a fresh focus on digitizing art education, a nurturing location in Central Square, and a growing list of successful graduates, it won’t be long until there are Mmmmaven copy-cats all around the country. David Day, however, maintains his status as a true, one-m, maven.

Want to see the Mmmmaven space for yourself? Contact sarah@mmmmaven.com or call 617.849.9321.

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