Requests and Rejections: Student Reactions to Past DJs

Kate McLaughlin, Staff Writer

November 13, 2023

Following recent Nobles events like Fall Fest, student opinion about the quality of DJs has been poor. The DJ at Prom received negative feedback from Class I and Class II students, and Fall Fest collected similarly low reviews from the whole student body. Doubt surrounding the DJs at school events begs the question: What do students value in their musical entertainment?

Students agreed that DJs should know their audience before they work an event, which requires proactive research about the makeup of their crowd. Science Faculty Michael Ewins, a drum and bass DJ since childhood, said, “If it’s your job, you should know what you’re doing. You should do your research.” By understanding the audience before an event, DJs can access the songs that will connect with their audience and refrain from improvising, which often causes poor performance. “It’s about the different demographics that show up…I bet we can walk into a dance here at Nobles, and we’d have very different music than if we went to rural Louisiana,” Ewins said.

After learning their audience before the event, talented DJs continue to excel by selecting popular songs among the crowd. Meghan Loeber (Class I) said, “Good song choices are important. They keep the vibes going.” Picking the right music ensures that the crowd continues dancing and enjoys the event, which is the ultimate goal of a DJ. Along those lines, DJs should never select songs based on their preferences. As a hired professional, personal bias towards specific genres and artists often alienates the crowd. The DJ at Fall Fest, known professionally as DJ WhySham, made this mistake by playing unpopular music at the event, including multiple songs from Harry Styles. “God bless [Harry Styles]. He’s great. But if I hear ‘Watermelon Sugar’ one more time, I’m going to [lose it],” Ewins said of the event. Proper song selection can elevate the energy of an audience, while poor music choice can isolate the crowd. Great DJs effectively walk this line. 

Another trait of a skilled DJ is the ability to read the room. After researching the audience’s demographics and choosing appropriate music, DJs should adapt to the crowd’s mood. Modifying their performance for the audience means switching out songs that won’t make the intended impression for songs that will positively transform the event’s energy. Understanding the crowd requires DJs to connect with the audience. Ewins said, “It’s part of your job to read the room. As a DJ, you need to read the room and understand what you need to do for the crowd to have a good time. I don’t know if [the DJ at Fall Fest] provided the best [atmosphere].” 

Additionally, the best DJs apply their creative artistry to an event’s music while catering to the audience. A new DJ on the scene, Amir Jamal (Class I), said, “DJs can be more creative instead of just playing generic music.” Although they should never perform with their interests in mind, DJs have creative license to apply their craft and unique techniques to an audience’s interests. However, some DJs, such as DJ WhySham, use their creative license too liberally by controlling the crowd’s energy. Playing Harry Styles and other unwanted music tastes dampened the audience’s mood at Fall Fest and suffocated the room. Ewins said, “There’s another type of DJ [who says], ‘I’m the artist here. I’m going to take you on a ride, and you have to come with me,’ and that’s a different kind of performance. That’s not a high school dance.” 

DJ WhySham was brought in as a replacement for longtime Nobles DJ, DJ Mike. Nobles opened up the job search to DJ WhySham this year, but it is evident that the position remains open. A House DJ, Jamal entered the industry around a year ago, learning the equipment and techniques himself. “I find it really enjoyable. It’s cool how you create the experience through the music you pick,” he said. Jamal currently DJs at house parties and plans to continue in college. 

Given negative feedback about recent DJs, many students want Jamal to DJ at a Nobles event. Loeber said of DJ WhySham, “She was not a very good DJ. We should have had Amir Jamal get up there and be the DJ.” Ethan Train (Class II) agrees with Loeber. “You’re supporting a Nobles student…So I feel like that’s a great place to entertain [Jamal’s] interest,” he said. Jamal is open to the possibility of DJing at Nobles. The opportunity is a natural next step as students demand improvement in their music entertainment.

(Photo Credit: Ben Heider)

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