In the limelight: Student DJs

Junior J.P. Stephens (DJ Slozz) performs as DJ at the Yellow Fiddle Friday night.  Michael Kavitz/Printz
Junior J.P. Stephens (DJ Slozz) performs as DJ at the Yellow Fiddle Friday night.
Michael Kavitz/Printz

As if being a full-time college student is not hard enough already, some students choose to be disc jockeys atop of all of their school commitments.
College life is already filled with late nights and little sleep, but imagine being the one that has to be at the bar before guests arrive to set up the equipment, and then stay late to pack everything up. That is the life of a DJ in a college town.

J. P. Stephens, a junior business administration major, has been a DJ for over a year now. He said it took him awhile to realize being a DJ was something he was interested in, but Stephens does not regret the decision.

“For the past two years, since I’ve been going to school here, I’ve been going to all the clubs and bars around here,” Stephens said. “I’ve always been fascinated by dance music, and how cool it would be to be on a stage doing that.”

In fall 2012, Stephens decided to pursue his newfound hobby.

“I got confident and got the equipment together and did my first show in February of last year. I’ve been doing shows and house parties ever since,” said Stephens, whose stage name is DJ Slozz.

Stephens attributes his success as a DJ to playing his first show at The Yellow Fiddle, a local Hattiesburg bar.

“I feel incredibly lucky because most DJs I know, like especially the older ones, it took them a good solid couple months, even a couple years before they could get a show at a bar,” Stephens said. “Now I play all around here (at)house parties, bars and even a couple weddings.”
But Stephens said being a DJ is not just about partying and having fun.

“I’m a (full-time) student, and I work about 25 hours a week at Lowe’s, and I DJ on the weekends and even some weeknights,” he said. “There are a lot of things I can’t do, like my social life exists solely through work or the shows I play. If I ever do get free time I use it to find new music.”
Stephens also knows he is a student first, meaning academics has to be his first priority.

“This semester I’ve got a harder course load so I have to scale back on playing shows for a little bit,” he said.

Will Mueller, a freshman entertainment industry major, decided to undertake the busy DJ lifestyle in his first semester of college, even with his Honors College coursework.

“I started out as a music producer, and I had been doing that seriously for a few months before I came to USM,” Mueller said. “I started producing because I’ve always been involved in music and I wanted to be able to make electronic music as well. I saw one of my friends as a DJ, and I thought maybe I might like to give that a try too.”

Mueller contacted Stephens along with a few other DJs in Hattiesburg to find a way to break into the DJ scene. Stephens gave Mueller a chance as an opener for one of his shows, and that was how Mueller realized he loved to be a DJ.

Mueller, stage name Devolver, also has to take special precautions to make sure he can balance his schoolwork with being a DJ.

“I only play on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and I have to make sure I never book shows when I have something important, such as a test the next day,” he said.

While being an honors student or having a job can be difficult to balance along with being a DJ, imagine being a college football player while trying to be a DJ.

That is what Alan Howze, a senior tourism management major, is trying to do. Being a middle linebacker for the Golden Eagles should already take away plenty of time from schoolwork, but Howze seems to make it all work.

“I don’t DJ every week but usually more like every other week,” said Howze, whose stage name is DJ Howze Party. “I try to set my shows up in advance so I can work it around my schedule.”

“Even during football season I can do shows because most date parties will run on Tuesdays and I even sometimes do shows after the games,” Howze said.

Being a DJ is not a joke to these guys, and it cannot be to anyone thinking about entering that field.

“I would encourage people to do it, but only if they have a real interest in it. There are plenty of people in that business for the wrong reasons,” Stephens said. “The only problem with doing it is you have to make a rather large investment up front, and if you don’t like it then you’re in the hole hundreds of dollars.”

The investment must have been worth it, considering Stephens has managed to book a big show in Mobile, Ala., only a year after starting out as a DJ. He hopes this will open a lot of doors to him being able to play shows all over the surrounding area.