September 28, 2012
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Bar mitzvah party songs and dance

Beyond the hora: Find the perfect DJ

for The Brooklyn Paper

You want your child’s bar or bat mitzvah to be memorable. And as you’re well aware by now, some memories are significantly more expensive than others.

Despite what vendors will do to try and convince you that such-and-such trend is the latest bar mitzvah craze, keep in mind that the focal point of any successful party isn’t a photo booth or chocolate waterfall — it’s the music.

And a good DJ is always in style.

“I’ve always put my focus on dancing and the partying,” says professional DJ Todd Yahney. “If your guests walk out and their feet hurt because they danced that much, that party was amazing — forget all the extra stuff.”

Yahney’s company, Todd Yahney Music and Entertainment, is a full-service events house, but it’s music he’s most passionate about. He started DJing in 1980, well before Apple MacBooks became his industry’s standard.

“I started out carrying milk crates full of records,” Yahney recalls. “We used to bring four milk crates and another ’45 case along.”

Times are much different now, though, and Yahney has had to embrace digital technology.

“The positive thing is the sheer ease of [transporting] music to an event — whether it’s a laptop or even something as small an iPhone or an iPad,” he says. “All my teams going out have MacBooks and we use a program called Searato, which is one of the more popular DJ programs for mixing. It’s definitely helped the industry.”

Taking requests, for example, became much easier when mobile technology entered the picture. With Internet access, virtually any song is just few clicks away.

However, that’s not to say clients should want to pick every song.

“My clients trust me to play the right stuff,” Yahney says. “I’ll get a top 10 list from the bar or bat mitzvah child, and a top 10 list from the parents, but usually the rest of that, they’re leaving to me, they’re trusting my ability.”

Trust, he says, is key.

“If a client is going to hire someone and pick every song they’re going to play, then how much experience are you bringing in? You wouldn’t go into a kitchen with a chef and list every spice you want them to use.”

If you’re allergic to an ingredient, though, Yahney says speak up.

“You might [tell a chef] that you’re allergic to ginger and you don’t want that used — the same way you might not want me to play ‘Living on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi because you hate it.”

Like a good chef, a good DJ doesn’t want to let you down.

But what exactly are some of the things you should look for in DJ when interviewing potential candidates?

“You have to find someone who treats your event like the biggest event they’ve ever done,” says Yahney. “You need someone who’s going to play more than the ‘Top 100 List’ from the Billboard chart. You need someone who can really appeal to that overall mix of people that is pretty common at every event.”

Yahney says that, “[songs] that are on the pop charts, but may have crossed over into adult radio” work well at most parties. “A few years ago, music from the Black Eyed Peas was big at bar and bat mitzvahs, while these days it’s LMFAO, perhaps Lady Gaga and Pitbull.”

But you can’t forget that popular music is only going to appeal to one half of the guests at your bar or bat mitzvah celebration.

“You have to have the old-school stuff, something that today’s generation knows from movies and TV. There’s always a Michael Jackson [track] you can play that can carry over.”

But ultimately, good music is good music. How you play it, however, is what really counts.

“It’s not so much the tracks that you play — it’s really what you do with it when you play it. Anybody can play great music, but what makes a great DJ is really what you’re doing with the crowd when they’re dancing.”

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