November 1, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When United States Army veteran Stephen Bils was deployed to Afghanistan, someone stole his first set of turntables, as well as all the vinyl records he’d collected over the years. The 29-year-old Clearwater, Florida, native had picked up the turntables at a flea market in North Carolina, right outside of Fort Bragg.

“They were garbage, but I loved them so much,” Bils says.

In a way, that was a pivotal moment in his life. Bils, who had relocated to Omaha in 1997 with his parents and two older sisters, returned to Nebraska to find a friend had donated a pair of (controllers) for him to use in the interim. From there, he began DJing all over Omaha—most notably at the now-defunct House of Loom.

“We played all over town,” he says. “The rest is history. It’s led me here to where I am now. It’s been nothing short of a good time.”

With each gig, the Benson High School graduate was finally able to publicly express his passion for music, something that began when he was a child. His mother, Trudi Bils, taught him how to play the guitar around 11 or 12 years old.

“I’ve always been in a musical environment,” Bils explains. “I played in bands, churches, high school concert band, jazz band, marching band, pep band—you name it. I was on drum line and played trap set in jazz band. In my free time, I played in bands with my friends.”

As a teenager, Bils started to gravitate toward electronic dance music.

“I love house music,” he says. “I can’t say that enough. Disco, funk, deep, soulful, techno—I love it all. I also enjoy trap and hip-hop, and jazz has a special spot in my heart, too.”

Bils doesn’t perform as much as he used to, but earlier this year, he became Encounter magazine’s resident DJ, which he says has been “amazing.” He also works with the Old Market-based Bar 415, where he brings in talent and occasionally plays shows.

“I’ll be doing a few friends’ weddings and some private parties this year, but with work, life, and everything going on, I can’t do it nearly as often as I used to,” he says. “Back when I was busy as a career DJ, I was holding down residencies with clubs like the Capitol, The Max, House of Loom, Sake Bombers, and Tavern. I was DJing gigs with touring bands, international DJs, producers, and working with organizations like the Open
Door Mission.”

Over the last few years, Bils has blossomed into a savvy entrepreneur. After high school, he briefly attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha where he enjoyed studying journalism, but three years into his college education, Bils left to pursue his own business—something he’s been working on ever since.

After watching his family struggle with finding quality care for his grandparents, Bils was motivated to establish BellaCare, an in-home health care agency focused on providing care to seniors and people with disabilities.

“There is such a huge demand for in-home care and a huge shortage of caregivers,” Bils says. “There are now, more than ever, a tremendous amount of people turning 65 everyday—somewhere around 15,000 people every day turn 65—and that will continue for another 15 to 20 years. And aside from being a good business opportunity, it’s a great way to do good for our community. It’s a much-needed service, and we are proud to offer it.”

While his commitment to BellaCare is one he clearly takes seriously, music will always be his first love. Anyone who has seen Bils touch a set of turntables (or CJDs) is typically moved by his form of artistic expression.

“House music is difficult to explain,” he says. “There’s a deep and soulful feeling that creates a connection or bond, like a symbiotic relationship between me and the people dancing. The rhythm and bass, topped with the voices of gospel, love or triumph, driven by wailing horns, or keyboards, or some kind of sample loop, just carries you over the dance floor like nobody’s watching. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Visit bellacare.us for more information about Bils’ business.

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