October 16, 2014

Vendors We Love: DJ Curtis Whipple

The right DJ can make or break your event.  They control the pace and the mood of the night, so it’s important to find someone you connect with when choosing a DJ.  In Arizona we are lucky to have quite a few awesome DJ’s to choose from!  We sat down Curtis Whipple to find out what got him into DJing and what’s kept him in the business for over 30 Years! 

 

YJ: Curtis, what got you into the wedding industry and DJ work?

CW: My mom was a lover of music and we had a piano in our home.  She died when I was a very little kidlet and although I don’t remember her, I’m confident that it was she who planted a love of music into my soul in all ways- genetically, environmentally and spiritually.  When I was 12, I heard Styx’s’  “Grand Illusion” album and that was the first time that popular music really spoke to me.  Then I saw Gary Numan play “Cars” on Saturday Night Live in 1979 and the puzzle was complete.  My love of music, the quirky visual inventiveness of not only the song “Cars” but the stage presence of Gary Numan started to gel in me- I wanted to be a musician/performer/entertainer in some way. Coupled with the discoveries of my own tastes in rock and roll and developing my sense of humor and changing from a boy to a man through awkward teenage years and beginning to exercise more of my own free-will on my own life, the experience in that parking lot at my dad’s store sparked my imagination and my passion and, and it’s now 35 years later and I’m still making my living as a musician/performer/entertainer!  As a lover of music and a lover of people, I couldn’t be in a more gratifying profession.

YJ:  What is your favorite part of a wedding reception?

CW: The answer to that is two-fold.  Here’s something that is a once-in-a-lifetime event for a family.  The heritage, the generations, the tradition. Life events aren’t special just because.  They are special because we give them a context. We put on our best clothes, we carefully lay out our best linens and china, we hire the best entertainment, we wear ceremonial clothing, we gather at the most beautiful places, loved ones spare no expense to travel across continents and even oceans to get there. The minister or rabbi or other holy man or woman pronounces sacred and historic vows.  I’ve been at it for 35 years- probably about 1700 weddings (and an equal number of corporate events and other social occasions) I still get emotional at such things. 

The second part plays into that.  When I’m doing my job right, 3 or 4 generations of people fly out of their chairs and dance and celebrate!  It may be a song from this generation or that other generation, but it doesn’t matter, they are all celebrating together.  Even if a few people don’t dance because it just ISN’T their thing, they still go away saying, “We had so much fun at the wedding!  The DJ and the music was brilliant.”  And they talk about it for decades.    

YJ:  What would you tell a couple when they are looking into hiring a DJ for their wedding? 

CW: I’d love to be considered to come and work at your wedding, but, believe it or not, even more than I want you to hire me, I just want your wedding celebration to be super fun. I’ve heard way too many horror stories of people attempting to save time and money by letting a “family friend” DJ the wedding and it ended in crummy entertainment, disastrous technical problems, inappropriate song choices, guests leaving shortly after dinner and lots of hurt feelings.  I’ve been around enough to know things that work and things that don’t.  There are things to skimp on and things to spend lavishly on.  I’m well aware that I don’t fit everybody’s taste or budget and I can’t do all 28,000 weddings in Arizona each year anyway- I’m only one man.

Best tip: hire an event planner.  The event industry is my world but for a person having a wedding celebration, they don’t even know where to begin or the questions to ask to weed out the riff-raff.  Event planners know a few experts in each field and they can match personalities and budgets to help you find reputable and talented professionals for your event. They may also be able to offer a few industry discounts as a part of those professional relationships.     

YJ:  Thanks for the event planner shout out Curtis!  Anything else? 

CW: There are several reputable local entertainment agencies that offer several DJs and bands and such.  Just make sure you get to talk to the actual DJ that will play your event and not just a salesman in the office. Owing to the personal, creative and artistic nature of what a good DJ should do, it would be important to meet them rather than have them show up on wedding day and you may decide that you don’t like them.  I am a “single operator” DJ service so when you interview with me or another single operator, you’ll begin to detect their personality and their expertise and the passion for their craft that they will be bringing to your event.   

Make sure you have a written contract that spells out who, what, when, where, how much, set-up times, travel expenses etc.  There should be an equitable way out for either party in an emergency.  Your event planner can help you review contracts with any vendors that they recommend. 

If you find a vendor that you like, get them booked.  To be booked more than a year in advance is not uncommon.  If you wait, you may get whoever is left over as opposed to who you really want. 

YJ:  What songs are sure to get everyone out on the dance floor?

CW: I like Chris Brown’s “Forever”, Taio Cruz’ “Dynamite”, Bee Gees “Staying Alive”, Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling”.  I can’t say that I’ve played the Beatles at every event that I’ve ever done, but I can’t think of an event where a Beatles song wouldn’t fit in nicely.  The same can be said for Van Morrison and Michael Jackson.

I generally don’t create lists in my mind of formulaic songs to play at a time and a place and although I use lots of technology, I don’t let my computer pick songs or mix them.  If I ever pre-program something in my mind, it means I’m not reading the crowd and feeling THIS moment as opposed to the moment in my office a few days ago when I planned something out. To open a music set, I like songs that have taken a few months to get out to the masses on the radio and across Youtube and such. A song really needs an amazing hook if I’m going to play it before it is well-known.  I will play some of those hot, fresh, new songs later in a night after Gramma and Grampa have retired for the night after the wedding cake is served up and we really do have a more narrow demographic with a more defined musical taste. Magic happens when DJ is really on his or her game and the crowd and the DJ become one!

 

YJ:  Do you offer special discounts and perks to planners and their brides?

CW: I  offer a discount to event planners like Your Jubilee who refer me regularly as I described above in my helpful hints for hiring a DJ. The even bigger benefit would be that you will be working with a team of professionals on your event who have worked together before, who know how to communicate with each other and are committed to making your event memorable. There have been plenty of times over the years where I was able to assist a fellow professional in a pinch because I knew how they worked and anticipated something and was able to grab an important piece of equipment out of a road case for them or alerted the venue staff that the cake knife and plates were not in place as we were about to announce the cake cutting. It’s about being a team.

YJ:  Thanks for chatting with us Curtis!  Any final thoughts for all the brides and grooms to be?

CW: I bid you all the heartiest of congratulations on your upcoming weddings.  May your dance floors ever and always be a big ol’ LOVEFEST!

Want to know more about Curtis or hire him for your upcoming event?  You can check out his website and connect with him on social media!  


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