At any given party or event around the 5Cs, students find themselves caught up in singing and dancing but rarely do they stop to notice the swaying figures behind hulking speakers and turntables working to create those sounds. In their work behind the tables, student DJs bring the energy to Claremont.
Claremont McKenna College’s Dorm Affairs Chair Elaine Sohng CM ’17 coordinates the process of matching prospective student DJs with specific parties and events.
“I work a lot to promote dorm and quad community,” she said. “All the dorm presidents are on the Dorm Affairs Council, and we do Thursday night programming which is all the TNCs.”
The process for selecting DJs for such events follows an informal structure and is often determined by those who voice their interest directly to the Dorm Affairs Council or by DJs who have previously played.
“We’re always open to new DJs,” Sohng said. “They usually send me a 10-15 minute set and if it works well with a theme then we work with them. I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘no’ to a DJ; it really depends on if their style will fit with the event and location.”
Oliver Mausner CM ’17, also known as DJ OMAS, only began deejaying about two months ago, but he has already become a crowd favorite.
“I got started because one of my best friends started in the summer and taught me and got me involved in the process, and I loved it immediately,” Mausner said. “The heads of TNC and the SAC (Student Activities Chair) asked me if I was interested in possibly deejaying some parties since they found out I started. ”
A DJ is responsible for much more than people realize; the entire mood and energy of a party can shift depending on the DJ and his choice of music. Song selection and modifications are a form of creative expression for Mausner and others.
“I love being able to change the mood of a room with just a change of one song,” Mausner said. “Its always the best when you have a big crowd that has lots of energy and is having a great time. You get the crowd pumped up by playing songs they know but then surprise them with different drops and transitions that they weren’t expecting. That always gets them going.”
Though Jake Wilson CM ’18 is new to the Claremont musical scene, he has been honing his skills independently for a few years.
“I was actually really into music production before, and the company that I buy most of my equipment from also sells DJ hardware/software, so it was a natural progression,” Wilson said. “I liked the idea that deejaying is a live interaction between the DJ and the audience. You have to be able to put yourself in the audience’s shoes and feel what they’re feeling.”
Wilson’s first college gig is scheduled for Pitzer College’s Moonbounce event Oct. 25, when he will join with Devon Kennedy PZ ’16 to form the duo known as Chills ‘N Thrills. Pitzer does not typically host many large parties, but the few they do present are typically huge successes.
“Devon and I have met up countless times to discuss what sound we are going for and what are going to play,” Wilson said. “I am still learning about most of this stuff, so I really have been just observing what Devon is doing, and he’s been explaining his entire process.”
While Wilson is nervous about his first, bigger skill DJ set, he is enthusiastic about the performance and is looking forward to playing alongside Kennedy.
“I’m really excited but also nervous for my first event—there are over 800 people already RSVP’d on Facebook, so it feels like a lot of pressure,” Wilson said. “But if it gets to be too much, Devon can easily take over.”
Unlike the fresh-faced Mausner and Wilson, many of the 5Cs’ student DJs have played shows outside the colleges, ranging from shows at local hookah bars to off-campus parties and music festivals. Most, however, declare that there is nothing like performing for college students.
Seasoned student DJ Tiger Brown CM ’17 is no different. A DJ since his sophomore year of high school, Brown has worked a number of parties in his hometown of Atlanta but looks forward to performing at events like Prison Break TNC, Halloween weekend and Eurotrash.
“I have deejayed for some non-CMC events, festivals and other parties,” he said. “They are great, but there is nothing like DJing at home with people you know and love.”
Unsurprisingly, students tend to have very strong opinions about parties, and those opinions naturally extend to the music at the parties.
“For the most part, I think the student DJs do a great job,” Eric Kil CM ’18 said. “They’re students just like us, so they usually know what music everyone wants to hear.”
While many, like Kil, appreciate seeing their fellow students up on stage, some students prefer a professional.
“Most of the time, I really like the DJs, but at Toga, the music kept starting and stopping; it really killed the vibe of the party,” Shruti Topudurti CM ’18 said.
Sohng and the rest of the Dorm Affairs Committee are actively working to create a better feedback loop between students and the committee to respond to student criticisms and thoughts on 5C DJs.
“We want to have event chair at snack to get student feedback,” she said. “It’s really good for people to tell me when they’re not happy with a party, and a lot of people have really strong opinions on our social scene right now, and it’s really important that they reach out and tell the social chairs what they want.”