November 1, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Derek Joy

I’m a wedding DJ.

That’s the first time I’ve publicly written this sentence.

It’s been a long journey to get to this point right. I went from a 19-year-old starry-eyed kid with a plan to change the world through music, to a 33-year-old wedding-DJ-for-hire, looking to make a quick disco daddy buck. I even advertise on theknot.com, making this about as official as it can get.

See, for DJs like me who identified with the “underground” and focused on musically whipping up emotions into an artful expression of the collective human experience, wedding DJs were the worst.

I mean, nice people. It’s just that between the potentiality of bridezillas, the necessity to play the “Cha-Cha Slide,” and the embarrassing unresponsiveness that follows your microphone announcement when rallying up people for the garter toss, I loathed wedding gigs. Yet here I am.

So how’d this happen? Simple. I became a father.

That sort of thing helps you to drop a fragile ego about what it means to be “true to the scene,” and instead apply your expensive gear and tested skills for the highest paid DJ gig an average guy can get.

As I’ve settled into this role, there’s one thing about the job that surprised me: Only a fraction of DJing a wedding is about DJing. The rest is spent making sure you understand the schedule, keeping everyone on said schedule, and not saying anything dumb on the mic.

Unfortunately, the last one gives me grief.

It could be that I’m secretly a shy-guy who ironically signs himself up for very public scenarios (such as being a DJ). It’s possible that, rooted in my experience as an adopted newborn, I have a fear of abandonment (exemplified by the time I hid in the corner and cried on the first day of kindergarten). Or—according to several of my past teachers—it’s due to my “test anxiety,” (which one time manifested on New Year’s Eve at Nomad Lounge when 250 people were looking up at me to lead the big countdown moment as I blanked out and fumbled around to hook up the microphone).

Just this past weekend, I DJed a wedding where, right after the bride and groom made their reception entrance, I was supposed to announce that the newlyweds didn’t want any “clinking of glasses” (i.e. the thing people do to get the bride and groom to kiss). But instead I mistakenly said, “The bride and groom requested that nobody do any—uh—uh—tinkling of glasses.”

I basically told people not to urinate in a cup.

As I made a “clinking” gesture with my hands to make up for the words that my brain failed to connect, you could hear a mic-feedback sound awkwardly christening the room.

And that’s how the night began.

But you know what? Somewhere along the way, I decided that, while I do have a menacing fear of microphones, these uncomfortable situations are really just an opportunity to tap into that age-old virtue called courage.

Case in point, at another wedding a few weeks ago, I basically played the role of a wedding coordinator and full-on master of ceremonies. To a crowd of a few hundred, I announced every motion of the night, gave the first toast of the evening, and vocally maneuvered in and out of emotional speeches. Apart from the use of breathing techniques, the power stance, and stress-relieving supplements like magnesium and L-theanine, I did the whole thing by myself without a hitch!

And interestingly enough, the same courage I muster up at a wedding now seems to follow me throughout the week—such as the time my wife and I were eating out at a favorite spot. I informed the server (in a cordial way) that the hummus we ordered was so mistakenly sweet that it tastes better as an ice cream topping rather than at the end of a carrot stick.

Or another time walking with my family, there was a couple sitting between two bushes with a river in the background. Their figures were creating a perfect silhouette, and the whole thing just had Instagram written all over it. To gift a keepsake, I told them how great the scene looked, and asked if I could take a photo with their phone.

Normally, I bypass those scenarios to avoid uncomfortable feelings. But by using my voice—my internal microphone—I helped an unknowing restaurant and captured a beautiful moment for two strangers.

As for that night where I told people not to piss in a cup, later in the evening, I jumped on the mic and whipped them up to form a multigenerational conga line to Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line.” Then for the last song, I tapped into the heightened potential of the moment by playing K-Ci and JoJo’s “All My Life,” and prompted the remaining group to hold hands and circle around the newlyweds.

At peak moments of the chorus, I would fade out the volume, leaving nothing but the heartwarming and ridiculous sound of the group belting out the lyrics. With the freshly minted couple in the middle and smiles abounding, the experience crescendoed into a big sweaty group hug.

And that’s how the night ended.

This article printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Encounter.

To share your life perspectives—or whatever—with Brent Crampton and Encounter, email millennials@omahapublications.com.