If you had told Ross Volpe at his graduation from VCU Arts that he would be competing at one of the most prestigious disc jockeying competitions in the country eight years later, he would have thought you were crazy.
Now, Volpe, who performs under his stage name “DJ Throdown,” is pinching himself. He was one of ten national finalists who competed in the 2015 Disco Mix Club U.S. DJ Championship, a prestigious DJ competition in Brooklyn, New York on Aug. 22.
Volpe experienced a rise to prominence in the DJing world, as “DJ Throdown” opened concerts for hip-hop icons like Wu-Tang Clan and Vanilla Ice.
The national competition is known to most as the DMC tournament. It pulls DJs who won regional tournaments from across the country and gives the winning DJ the chance to compete at the international level.
Although he came in fourth place, Volpe said he was elated to be able to compete with some of the best DJs in the country.
“I always fantasized about what it would be like to be on that stage, but I never conceptualized it actually happening,” Volpe said. “It was single-handedly the most significant and exciting weekend of my life.”
For Volpe, the competition was a long time coming. He had been interested in all kinds of music his entire life, but it took one day for him to narrow down his focus to disc jockeying and producing music: his 17th birthday, when he got his first turntables. He said he hasn’t looked back since.
Despite his passion for music, Volpe chose to major in sculpting. He said he believed the fine arts would present a safer career path than music. Even as he studied sculpting in college, he was always drawn to music.
“I was in art school, but DJing constantly lured me away from my studies. I don’t regret studying art though, because being in the art program at VCU definitely influenced my approach as well,” Volpe said. “I was around a lot of people who like to think outside of the box and I learned to have an alternative outlook. I’m grateful to have had that opportunity.”
He said is also enjoying working closely with his father Michael, a public relations specialist who handles the majority of his son’s media outreach.
“I’m good at working and dealing with people in a more personal sense, or with a crowd, but he’s the king of media relations and dealing with the press, in my opinion,” Volpe said. “I actually wanted my brand to elevate before I started being one of his clients. Now that he’s working for me, he’s helped my brand grow.”
His father says anyone who meets him would never expect someone with his humility to have such a gift.
“To Ross, the fanfare and stardom isn’t as important as delivering the best show for his audience every night,” Michael Volpe said. “Our entire family is proud of Ross because he has worked very hard to achieve his success. We have seen him spend long hours practicing his turntable feats of magic and we kid him that he has truly earned the nickname the ‘Sultan of Scratch.’”
With the DMC tournament behind him, Volpe will return to mixing and scratching at shows in the DC-metro area. He will continue to produce music, something he enjoys doing just as much as DJing.
“I want to take that old-school golden-era hip hop sound and infuse it into a punchier, more club-friendly sound,” Volpe said.
Volpe said he’s always had a fondness for hip-hop music, but his years in an urban environment at VCU gave him an even greater admiration for it. While he does miss Richmond, he doesn’t visit as much as he would like to.
“Visiting Richmond more often is something I definitely need to do,” Volpe said. “I would also love to do a show at VCU.”