DJs have played an important part in the atmosphere that is Athens and Ohio University for years. To celebrate June being National DJ Month, The Post talked to Aaron Thomas, who is known as DJ A-Roc to Athens residents. A-Roc works not only in the Athens community but also for Carnival Cruise Line and as a DJ for weddings.
The Post: How long have you been DJ-ing and what inspired you to become a DJ?
Thomas: I've been DJ-ing for over 20 years. I started in high school, and I transitioned when I got to Ohio University. I arrived to OU in 1997. The first week I was on campus, I was DJ-ing the opening weekend icebreaker event. I got into the DJ career because I had a love of music. I love everything around it. I love the atmosphere. I like being at all the parties without drinking – I'm a non-drinker. It gave me an opportunity to go to all the best parties without even having to take a sip of alcohol and having a good time.
TP: What types of events do you typically DJ for?
T: I am a wedding DJ. I do a lot of sorority parties, and a bunch of events for OU. I was running all the virtual events during the pandemic. I'm on my way to Miami because I work for Carnival seasonally. I usually work for Carnival every winter. I'll leave for three to four months, and go DJ on the cruise ship. Cruises are slowly coming back. They got a special event down in Miami that I applied to go work this weekend. I got some other work to do with them as they are transitioning and restarting cruises. I've been working the cruise ships for six years now.
TP: What got you into working for a cruise?
T: I just wanted a different opportunity. That was the thing with the cruise lines: it provides a different opportunity – something different than Athens. I love Athens but sometimes you gotta switch it up a little bit. That was a break in the norm. But regardless, I set my schedule around Ohio University. I will have Homecoming and I will not leave town until I'm done with Homecoming. The university doesn't have me on any retainer, so I'm just committed to taking care of them.
TP: What advice would you give to someone aspiring to become a DJ?
T: It doesn’t come easy. For the most part, you have so many people now that feel that stuff should be given to them. You have to earn it. You can't say ‘I just spent all this money on this DJ equipment, and I deserve to go open up for this event.’ You get a lot of people that feel that way and it’s sad. Not saying that everybody has this mentality, but I meet more people every year that just feel that. It's hard to get into bars in town, because the bars have to trust you. You gotta earn that respect, that trust, that recognition. At the end of the day, I tell our young DJs, you're not there to play your favorite music, you're there to play the music for the people that's there. If you do a concert, people come to see you. If you work in a bar, your job is to make sure the bar stays busy. You can listen to your own music when you leave the bar. Be patient, but just remember why you’re doing it. You're doing it for the love, you’re doing it for the passion. The money will come eventually.
TP: What has been your favorite experience DJing?
T: I got to DJ on a private beach for a thousand guests with the cruise ship sitting in the background. That's probably one of my most memorable experiences. Carnival owns a private island and they do a beach day. DJ entertainment will run events on the island for eight hours for the guests. You bring your equipment off the ship, you set up and the area you set up in is actually a syndicated pirate ship. You're DJing inside of a pirate ship overlooking the beach with the water in front of you, with the sand in front of you. Guests are having a good time with this huge cruise ship in the background for all the pictures. It’s amazing.