Edinboro alumna finds success as a mobile DJ

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Monday, March 30th, 2020 at 1:46 PM
Edinboro alumna finds success as a mobile DJ by Dylan Baumgartner
Photo: Lauren Smith of LNS Studio LSC

“I’ve come to learn that I was pretty much destined to be a DJ,” said Jessica McKelvey, an Edinboro University alumna now working the Pittsburgh market. “I recently ran into a middle school friend who reminded me that I made her an Alanis Morsette CD when we were younger, and that Alanis turned into one of her favorite artists.” 

That wasn’t the only time McKelvey curated music for her friends. “Then I’ll receive texts from friends who tell me about other music I’ve shared with them and how it made a difference in their lives. I’ve got mix CDs out there everywhere. It all starts with a love of music and performance, and grows with my inherent ability for receiving and omitting energy.” 

That energy started to develop at the Edinboro Hotel Bar in 2003. She explained that if it wasn’t for their progressiveness and willingness to hire female DJs, she may have never had the opportunity to chase after her dream.  

The DJ scene has changed quite a bit since she first got this start, and so has the equipment she uses.  

“Laptop DJ-ing with a hard drive was not as established,” said McKelvey. “I know I had a million CDs that I would personally create and work with. It (the Hotel’s DJ system) was a dual CD changer connected to a soundboard. And there was a microphone that would hook into the board via an XLR [cable]. I’ll always remember that microphone for some reason.” 

McKelvey now has a fully digital system that runs off a computer program called Virtual DJ and connects to a digital controller. She also currently uses a Pioneer DDJ-SX2, which allows her to control Virtual DJ and keep the flow of the music exciting.  

The new technology makes life significantly easier for any in the profession. McKelvey is able to build digital crates, or playlists, and use “beat grids” to match up songs. DJs are also able to view more information than ever when selecting a song, like the exact BPM and key signature.  

While DJing was just a hobby for McKelvey, it has turned into her full time career. She’s worked everything from “Sweet 16” birthday parties and backyard barbecues, to corporate events and weddings.  

“I’ve done a lot of cool events,” she said. “My top three are 2018 The Peavey DJ Takeover (executed by Bill Jakub) in Las Vegas; Girls Night Out in Charleston, West Virginia; and Women Who Rock in Pittsburgh.” 

Even though she got her start DJ-ing here in Edinboro, McKelvey has chosen to work in Pittsburgh because that is where she was born and raised. 

 “I was born here and grew up on the east side of the city in an area called White Oak. My family means the world to me, so I decided to build my life here with them,” she explained. 

She attributes a great deal of her DJ success to both her family and the communications department at Edinboro. 

“I couldn’t do any of this without support. Support from my husband, Riley, who is there with our children, and who is my biggest sounding board for ideas and ventures. My father has supported me financially and educationally. My mother has allowed me to embrace my uniqueness and creativity throughout my entire life. She’s actually the reason I went to Edinboro,” said McKelvey. 

She also thanked her sister-in-law who has helped her throughout the journey. Her sister-in-law is the owner of a photography company which is a rather similar, event-based business.  

A lot of her success in the DJ industry can also be attributed to her education, she explained. In high school she took many public speaking courses, and she was a communications major at EUP.  

In the end, she said, “I’m hard working, obsessed with focusing on goals and executing them, and I genuinely enjoy working with people.” 

DJ Jess can be found on Facebook, or on her website, DJJess412.com. You can also check out some of her work here.

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