Whitman senior Sal Goldblatt has been a DJ since the fifth grade when his parents bought him his first mixer.
“It wasn’t even a turntable. It was just, like, a soundboard with two little iPod things — you put both your iPods in and kinda do your little thing there, so I kinda taught myself how to mix from that.
“Then, in eighth grade my brother got me a two-day trial pass to this place called Dubspot in New York City where I grew up, and I did a little Serato training,” he said, referring to the popular DJ software.
“I’ve pretty much been teaching myself ever since. I’ve always loved music, and I just love the feeling you get when you’re mixing onstage. I’ve been trying to do as much as I can … since I got my first mixer, in all honesty.”
More recently, Goldblatt has performed as a DJ at Whitman parties and around the Walla Walla community under the name SL Goldmine.
Where you might not expect to find him, however, is in the Harper Joy Theatre’s acting classroom, where he — alternating with local Walla Walla DJ Lotek — has been providing music for Senior Adjunct Assistant Professor of Dance Peter de Grasse’s weekly R&R sessions.
Previously a much calmer (and quieter) affair, R&R — a space open to all students as a way to relieve stress and tension — has been fully revamped this year, going from a calm, meditative environment to a place to dance stress away.
“(de Grasse), who is my dance teacher and who’s seen me DJ a few times — he approached me and asked me about it, because they wanted to kind of reupholster R&R and make it more of a dance-y space,” Goldblatt said.
“It’s been great, you know, to just come and let loose in the middle of the day, so it’s definitely very unique. I like DJ-ing those kinds of environments because people can just let loose, and there’s not as much social pressure as at a party.”
According to de Grasse, the DJs have been a welcome addition to R&R as a whole.
“DJ Lotek and SL Goldmine are both low-maintenance professionals who deliver more than promised, which makes them a delight to work with,” he said. “Sal has a particular eclecticism which he miraculously sews together with a silver thread of craft. It’s a pleasure to hear it.”
In a lot of ways, being able to DJ for R&R is freeing for Goldblatt compared to the inherent restrictions that come with a lot of his other gigs.
“I have a lot more free reign, and there’s not a lot of drunk people that I have to deal with. A lot of times when doing parties you have a lot of people who will, like, yell requests at you or get a little in your face, and I don’t have to deal with that at an R&R, or if I’m doing a concert or, you know, backing up a local rapper for a show in town,” Goldblatt said.
“I think I’m pretty limited to what I play at parties based on what people like and don’t like, so it’s a chance for me to have fun with what I like to play, which leads to some cool, organic moments with the room and with me as a DJ.”
de Grasse agrees that the new R&R format can be relaxing for the DJs and the attendees.
“This time is for students — and anyone who would like to join — to hear real DJ craft and to get down and be themselves in a safe space,” he said.
“Sometimes we need stillness. We need soul, though, too. Whitman needs soul. And (Associate Professor of Dance) Renée (Archibald) and I agree that sometimes you just gotta get down and get it out … so that’s what this is for.”
Whether at a party, in town or at R&R, SL Goldmine represents an important part of Whitman’s small music scene and offers a much-needed break by and for students.