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July 19, 2022 27 mins

One day, my father dropped the needle on a record, and Santana blew out of the speakers. I was just seven. From his collection of thousands of albums, he began to play others, too: Traffic, Paganini, Stan Getz, Miles Davis. He was educating me. He was showing me love, a love intensified by sharing all the crazy beauty of song. Soon enough, I began to mix my own cassettes with artists who deeply moved me, from Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Wonder and Elton John. You could say this was my first DJ gig, only the audience was me.

After studying photography in art school, I left my hometown in Washington, D.C. and made the leap to New York City. One night at a gallery opening, I spun some records for fun, but the results were infectious: the next thing I knew, I was digging through my father’s record collection, the treasure trove that started it all, looking for gems to slide into my next gig.

But to this day, my career as a music director is always indebted to the magic of the right song in the right place. How many times have you heard that deep, blue note of music and smiled from ear to ear? Or gone weak in the knees? Or felt your heart seize up in deep, exquisite ache? All of this testifies to the power of that serendipitous song, that instant chemical reaction that moves a crowd to tears or straight to their feet.

I love music with all my heart, but most of all, I love to watch the amazing things music can do to other people. Corny, I know, but true. It’s also the reason I know how to read a roomful of diverse guests like no one else. Regardless of the event, its size, or its clientele, I’ve learned to adapt an eclectic array of music to whatever a crowd is feeling minute by minute, note by note. Your event, as a result, is directed with the eyes and ears of a sonic curator, and your guests will never forget the night they fell in love with music all over again.


DJ Johnny Stuart



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