“Being a career, full-time DJ, has shown me that I have to honor and nurture all the parts of Jess. And if I can slow down and listen, those parts will show themselves to me. Then it’s up to me to accept them and put in the work.” – DJ Jess
On the surface the image of DJing is all about the music, using artistry to spread good music vibes to a crowd of people wanting to escape for a night of celebration (or just because), having the latest cool DJ gear and the speakers with the best audio clarity and biggest bass, lighting that adds a pop of ambiance to a room, and any other gadget that enhances an event or club experience. Beneath the surface, there is so much more. Connection and purpose…they are essential to being a solid DJ. DJ Jess encompasses this all.
DJ Jess is an open-format wedding and events DJ/MC, mother of 2 tiny humans, wifey, plant enthusiast, booty shaker, visionary boss babe based in Pittsburgh, PA. For the last 13 years, she has run a successful solo DJ company and has made her mark in the 412 event world with her energy, natural performing abilities, intuitive mastery of music, and down to earth professionalism. She was voted as Pittsburgh’s Best Wedding DJ and is featured in Mobile Beat Magazine, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Edinboro Alumni Magazine. Her client list includes: Facebook, Tito’s Vodka, Comcast, Dress for Success, Penn State, YWCA, and Coldwell Banker. Some of her dope gigs include: Peavey DJ Takeover (2018-2019) in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. GNO in Charleston, Pittsburgh Pride Parade, and Women Who Rock with special guest Sheila E. Last year she started speaking on the Play Outloud at Home series with QSC on FB LIVE, and performing virtually on a variety of industry hosted online parties.
Growing up on the east side of Pittsburgh in White Oak, little Jessica’s childhood was full of imaginative playtime. “I use to have a band called The IQ Party Patrol, hosted book fairs and carnivals, and even created and distributed a town Kid’s Newspaper. I wanted to be all of the following: fashion designer, artist, interior decorator, back up dancer. I’d like to think I am successful in each area in my own way. (My outfits are sometimes really cute, I used to draw when I was bored in class, my house looks good, and I get it on on the dance floor/behind the decks),” says Jess.
While in college, Jess didn’t have DJing on her radar nor even thought of it as a possibility, but ended up being offered her first DJ gig by another female DJ who was her sorority sister and complimented her on her music taste. “Mind you, I was requesting a lot of Obie Trice, so I do have Obie to thank for the career push. I worked my way up to the head DJ at The Hotel Bar, a college bar in Edinboro, PA where everyone came to dance. And then I signed on as a DJ for Zipper Down Productions, an Erie-based company. Looking back, I now realize that the company name was less than ideal for image, but I went by DJ Jess. I didn’t even think about that until now….” recalls Jess.
During her first real DJ residency at The Hotel Bar, Jess has a lot of fond memories from those first days. “ I remember using a million CDS. I ripped so much from Napster, Bearshare, and Limewire (RIP my college desktop). One of the many reasons I loved being a DJ at The Hotel was that I had the booth to dance in. It was separate from the dance floor which was packed,” says Jess. A highlight DJ moment she reminisces about from her years in college at Edinboro that was brought about by Ludacris. “He had a song about doing a handstand (can I say it was P-Poppin? If not we can just leave it at “a song about a handstand”) that was hot in the early 2000’s. About ten seconds into the song, after the intro, I felt and heard a large THUMP on my DJ booth. I looked over the ledge, and down towards the dance floor. To my surprise, I saw feet. The bottoms of shoes were staring at me. That was someone’s jam, and they were so moved and inspired to do a handstand and dance. I don’t know how they pulled it off, and it was glorious!”
Eventually, after graduating college with a degree in Event Marketing, DJ Jess decided to pursue DJing full-time and build a career out of it. Over the years Jess has been blessed to DJ for some really dope clients at weddings and events. Her most memorable DJ moment thus far is performing at Mobile Beat Las Vegas, 2018. “I performed at The Peavey DJ Takeover alongside numerous talented DJs from across the nation. I prepped, and prepped, and practiced my ass off. I even practiced with the stomach flu. I was so ready. When the day came, though, I was a mess. It’s all I could think about. I did self calming techniques before, got there early, remained clear-headed. I even took some time to walk around the space before so I could feel the energy. But, when I got up there, my hands shook the entire time. It was only a 15 minute set, and there wasn’t one second that I wasn’t afraid I would double click the mouse pad on my mac and play a song by accident. Albeit, I completely crushed my set and the feeling after was heavenly. My adrenaline was through the roof and I knew that was going to be a life-changing moment for my career. It opened up doors for future gigs and showed me that when I put hard work in, I can create masterpieces,” expresses Jess.
Jess’s DJ experience has also had an influence on her approach to living her life. “I realized quickly that my career has to have purpose, and that I need to be deeply connected to it. Throughout 2020, things have changed, to say the least. It gave, and is still giving me time to reflect on who I am; all of the parts of Jessica. A deep part of that is being DJ Jess. I am a performer and I feed off of energy. I need to give and receive energy in order to wholeheartedly live. Oh, and I also have learned showing up way early for things makes me feel better. Extra time for tasks is necessary. I used to get so nervous before a gig. Now I know if I give myself extra extra time, I will be able to calmly get myself ready and take time to connect to the space before I crush it,” says Jess.
Besides DJing, Jess has a collection of side hustles, interests and hobbies. “I side hustle tiny humans and a home. I run a garden and a few really in depth (okay, not a few, like 20) Air BnB boards of places I will visit. My hobbies are always changing, and this year I’ve been focused on connecting more deeply to the spiritual and energy world that surrounds us. I’m also getting more into conference speaking, mostly virtual right now. Recently I was a part of the DJNTV conference, hosted by John Young.”
The biggest challenge Jess admits is herself. “I have a constantly running, overly creative, sometimes overwhelmed brain. I’m always thinking of ideas and new projects. I’m constantly analyzing myself through my actions and responses. It’s been a spearhead for why I’m so successful, but I realized quickly that if I’m ever going to enjoy the success, I need to slow down and allow myself to connect with my wins and my worth. I do this by continuing to learn about myself and celebrating my unique attributes. Self care books (that may take me a year to read, but whatever it’s cool), meditations, reiki, connecting with a like-minded tribe, and finding time for play and rest; those are what help. And now I can focus on one glorious project at a time, making sure to celebrate it when I do,” expresses Jess.
With the power of a deep connection to, not only the purpose of DJing, music, clients, and events, but also to herself, DJ Jess will continue to elevate the DJ world. And that combination is a recipe to a badass rockstar DJ.
Behind the Decks Q & A
Q: On event day or before a set – do you have any pre-event rituals that you feel set you up mentally or physically to be ready to go?
A: I play Sia while I’m getting ready and sing along, I absolutely have to have my bow tie rhinestone necklace, and I walk around the venue/ceremony space to feel the energy.
Q: What is 1 thing you love the most about DJing?
Q: What do you do at the end of the night after DJing a set?
A: Lay in bed and eat wedding cookies
Q: Using 3 words, how would your colleagues and clients describe you?
A: I actually asked this question in a post, so I can promise you this is true. Passionate, energetic, and (wait a second, let me bring up the spreadsheet…) authentically kind.
Q: What song immediately enters your mind when you want to see hands up in the air, bodies shaking/bouncing, and people going absolutely nuts!?!!?
A: Zedd- Clarity
Q: What artist/song do you feel has made an impact on your sets in the last decade?
A: Definitely Celine Dion.
Q: What is one song request that makes you cringe?
A: Off-key singing and throat clearing