By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
For some, career paths are mapped out in grade school. For others, it’s not until they reach adulthood that they know. And for others, it’s a process of elimination – figuring out what they can’t do before realizing what they can do.
Then there are some like Tina Turnbull who find their passion when they aren’t even looking.
When Turnbull was in high school and needed to raise money for orchestra, she chose to organize an event at a club, complete with DJs and a break dancing battle, rather than selling candy bars. All it took was this event for the former Seattle resident to find what she enjoyed doing.
“I fell in love with the production side of events and entertainment,” she said.
Turnbull was 15 at the time and had discovered another passion, DJing. She began practicing after attending a DJ battle at a church in Seattle. She was eager to improve her skills on the turntables.
Since then, the 28-year-old half Chinese DJ has combined her two passions into a successful career.
Turnbull, also known as DJ Tina T, is the official DJ for Red Bull. The job came after she worked with the company as a student brand manager while attending Washington State University. In this position, Turnbull organized many events on campus, often DJing for the company as well.
“When I graduated college and was no longer working for them, they continued to book me [as a DJ] all over the country and the relationship just kept growing,” Turnbull said.
After college, she moved to Los Angeles, using her marketing degree to market herself as a DJ.
In 2008, she moved to Las Vegas. Her goal was to break into the city’s club scene.
Turnbull felt that she achieved her goal in April when she was named Las Vegas’ Best Female DJ 2010. She said candidates for the award are nominated and voted on by the public.
“I felt like all my hard work had paid off and been recognized,” she said.
And Turnbull, who splits her time between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and comes up to Seattle once a month to DJ at the club Venom, has worked hard to get to where she is today. With a white father and Chinese mother, one of the things that she has worked hardest at has been convincing her parents that her career choice is a safe one.
She said that although they have always been supportive, her parents are wary about her profession’s lack of security as well as the dangers of working in the nightlife industry.
“[My mom] tells me that in China, the nightclubs are only for prostitutes and drug dealers, so it really bothers her that this is my work environment,” Turnbull said. “I try to tell her that things are a lot different than when she was growing up in China.”
Despite their worries, Turnbull’s parents, who still live in the Seattle area, have seen her at work and have been to clubs and events where she is the DJ.
Her father, William Turnbull, says that although he and his wife Joan Turnbull wish their daughter were in a more traditional occupation, they know that she is serious about her profession.
“She truly enjoys what she does and is willing to spend the hours to hone her craft,” he said. “We have both supported her as long as she has the time and patience to do that. She always has.”
Turnbull enjoys being a DJ so much that she is sharing it with the next generation.
In August, she is launching Camp Spin Off, a sleep away summer camp for teens across the West Coast who want to learn how to DJ. The camp will take place in Ojai Valley, Calif. The camp is something that Turnbull has wanted to do for a long time.
She’s bringing in instructors from Scratch DJ Academy, a school that started in New York and teaches people about all aspects of being a DJ. In addition to the DJ curriculum, there will be electives covering topics such as break dancing, music marketing, and multimedia. The camp will also have traditional summer camp activities like hiking, swimming, and campfires.
Turnbull said that nowadays, parents like it if their children learn a skill while they are away at camp. There are camps for art, cooking, and various sports, but DJ camp has “never been done” until now.
“If their kids are interested in DJing, they have that option,” she said.
Despite how much she loves it and wants to see young people joining her profession, Turnbull admits that DJing has its ups and downs just as any other career. She loves being able to make people dance and provide the energy in the room.
What she doesn’t like are the rude and drunk people who harass her while she’s working.
“Sometimes, I think to myself, ‘I would never show up to your work and yell requests in your face,’ ” Turnbull said. “There are some really rude people out there, but you learn to just ignore it.” ♦
Samantha Pak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.