Laser lights bursting with color waltzed on the walls. A smoke machine fogged up the dance floor. Hip-hop music practically made the walls shake.
And with a few clicks of a button, the dance club turned back into a finished basement.
Slavi Dillane has been spending a lot of time in his Overland Park basement lately, preparing for his summer gigs as a professional DJ. With his advanced software, high technology and state-of-the-art equipment, he is becoming high in demand.
Not bad for a 15-year-old.
The outgoing teenager fell in love with the profession when he was in middle school.
At a seventh-grade mixer, he asked the DJ for some tips on the trade. Soon after, Slavi took lessons and researched the activity extensively online. He learned about mixing strategies, how to loop a song and scratching techniques.
“I thought DJs just logged in music and pressed play,” Slavi said. “I had no idea so much hard work was involved. You really need to understand the equipment well and learn the art of mixing.”
His mom bought him the equipment he needed and he put together a Facebook page. His company, Spin 180 DJ Productions, launched one year ago.
His business plan is simple: He doesn’t want to rob people. Slavi does not charge a service fee for setting up equipment and taking it down. He only charges for his performance.
Plus, he gives significant discounts to nonprofit organizations. His soft spot for helping charities stems from his late father, who had been president of Junior Achievement of Middle America.
Several of Slavi’s gigs have been charity events. He also does weddings, birthday parties, and business functions.
He admits getting started was the hardest part.
“Last summer, I did a wedding for the first time,” Slavi said. “I could tell they were nervous a 14-year-old was going to be doing the music for their wedding, and I don’t blame them — I’d be scared too. But it actually turned out to be a really great night.”
And every time he performs at an event, he learns something new.
Being a good DJ is more than just pumping out beats, he said. Knowing how to read a critical crowd is the key.
“You have to notice people’s body language,” he said. “If people are kind of standing still, or if 20 people get up and leave, then it’s time to change the music.”
His mother, Diane Dillane, believes the entire experience has been educational.
“It has broadened his horizons for other music, whether it’s classical or jazz,” she said. “It’s been fun to watch him discover new artists.”
Slavi agrees. He said researching 1960s music has been a blast. He’s already become a huge Frank Sinatra fan and he loves throwing in a Beach Boys song whenever he gets the chance.
He also said professionalism has become important to him.
He’s in the process of creating a new website and he’s continually trying to improve his company.
Slavi’s success and work ethic have already rubbed off on his older sister, Toni.
Within the last year, the high school student has also started a company of her own where she walks, bathes and baby-sits dogs.
Their mother couldn’t be more thrilled.
“It gives me a lot of pride to have kids with direction, instead of playing video games and watching television all the time,” Dillane said. “I’m a lucky mom.”