By Susannah Green
If you regularly end up dancing at the Cove, the VI or even an all-campus party on a weekend night, youve probably experienced the talent of DJs Zach Arlia 14, Brandon January 15 or Luke Frisher 13. All three are part of an exclusive group of Kenyon students whose jobs start when the rest of us finally take a break, providing the carefully curated soundtrack to a great night out.
Arlia, an economics major from Plymouth, Mass., got his start DJing at high school dances, but the pastime became more serious his sophomore year at Kenyon when he got a turntable.
Arlia began by performing at various Greek parties, and just recently he has been paid to perform at the Village Inn (VI). After performing at Phi Kappa Sigmas VI benefit, he talked to Jerry Kelly, one of the VIs owners, who wanted him to perform again. Arlia DJed this past Saturday for a VI-hosted dance party called VIbe.
The posters just say DJ Zach on them, which kind of makes me sound like a middle-aged DJ, like someone you would hire to play a bar mitzvah, Arlia joked. His preferred DJ name is Z-axis. While Arlias start-up costs were somewhat high a turntable plus software and headphones totals around $600 he makes $25 an hour performing at the VI.
Arlia picks songs from a master playlist of around 20 hours worth of music that includes a wide variety of performers and genres he has everything from Destinys Child to Skrillex and Deadmau5, which he tries to intersperse. Arlia first performed professionally this past summer in Stamford, Conn., where he was interning for GE Capital, General Electrics financial services unit. While the shows are fun, he doesnt want to work full-time.
I enjoy doing it. Its my creative outlet. Its just fun for me and [I like when] people have that reaction like, Ohh! Ill drop some middle school hip hop and people will be laughing on the dance floor.
Like Arlia, January, a pre-med student and economics major from Houston, TX, said DJing started as a hobby and creative outlet before it grew into a part-time job.
I began after winter break my freshman year and it was one of those things I just picked up, January said. I had a traumatic experience [last year] and was looking for an outlet, so I just went to Best Buy one day and picked up a little mini DJ thing, just something to mess around with.
Upon returning to school, January approached Andy Durbin, owner of the Cove, and asked if he could DJ for him.
The Cove had just fired a previous DJ and was looking for someone new, and January filled the vacancy. He now DJs at the Cove two or three times a week and his sets last from 10:30 p.m. until 2:00 a.m.
January noted that there were differences in the way he approached DJing at a frat party and DJing at the Cove.
[People at the Cove] like mainstream music, he said. You have to watch whether people are dancing and if they like that song, you stick to that genre for awhile. Other than that, I kind of just go with the flow. If I play one song, I have a couple other songs in the back of my head that complement that.
As for the mainstream selections, January said his most popular request by far is Taylor Swifts I Knew You Were Trouble.
I get it so much Ill tell people I dont have it, January said.
January has also performed outside of Kenyon. Having signed with Stanley Talent Management Company last year, he was able to find gigs and perform at bars and for rush events at universities in Texas, his home state.
Frisher, an economics major who hails from San Francisco, differs somewhat from Arlia and January in that he creates his own electronic music. He got into DJing in high school and became more devoted to the craft after his first year at Kenyon, when he interned in San Francisco for a company that makes DJ equipment.
In the last two years, Frisher has stopped performing as often and started focusing on creating original content.
Ive become more interested in original music, Frisher said. Sometimes Ill perform at the VI [and] sometimes at my apartment for parties. Freshman and sophomore years I used to perform more at Old Kenyon and frat parties, and I dont do that as much now.
Working under the professional alias Slaptop, Frisher has spent the past year and a half producing. He currently works between six and seven hours a day in the studio; his goal is to finish an EP before he graduates. The project is part of an independent study, so he receives credit for his hard work. Relative to DJing, [producing] is much more technical and difficult, said Frisher.
He has already developed a fanbase in San Francisco through the music he puts online, and actually flew home to perform a few shows there last year. He stressed that he is still assessing whether he can make his professional aspirations work.
Im still in the creative learning phase, he said. There still has to be a decision of whether Im going to go for this 100 percent. I can theoretically make enough [money] DJing and create a fan base this way, or at some point I say this isnt working and I try something else.