Hitched: What first interested you in being a wedding entertainer?
Anna-Jeannine “DJ AJ9” Herman of Something New Entertainment: I’ve been performing since I was a child — on stage as an actor, a singer, a musician (I play the French horn and the trumpet), a vocalist (I’m a soprano), and dancer. In college, I studied Theatrical Performance, Theatrical Design, and Communication. My graduate work was also in Theatrical Design.
The leap from theatre design and performance to wedding entertainment was a very natural one — I really saw a need in the market, and that hole just so happened to be a perfect fit for my personal skills and talents. Brides and grooms really needed an entertainment advocate who would listen to their needs and desires; who would provide expert-level advice about sound, staging, production design, and entertainment structure while working with them as a collaborator (rather than as a dictator or as a hijacker); and who would honor their personal style as the core component of the night that it truly is. That was me!
AJ9: I have been serving wedding clients since 2006. I have worked professionally in the entertainment industry since 1999.
H: How would you describe your entertainment style?
AJ9: “True to YOU!” This is always sort of a funny question, to me. Sometimes, during the interview process, people will ask me a similar question — “What kind of music do you play?” I always answer “I only play whale sounds.” It always gets a laugh.
Really, though — I don’t see myself as a rogue agent, when to comes to working with brides and grooms. This is all about collaboration. If the party is the reaction, I’m the catalyst. I help my clients crystallize their vision and bring their ideas and wishes and dreams to life. The foundation I build upon is composed of knowledge about the bride, groom, and their friends and family, though. My job is to serve as a facilitator, an advocate, and a spokesperson for the bride and groom’s agenda. No cookie-cutter weddings. One size does not fit all.
AJ9: Well — I already mentioned my formal education in theatrical performance and design, above, so I won’t make you sit through that, again! However, I also have quite a bit of very niche specialty training under my belt, too: I’m a graduate of the American DJ Academy and the Chauvet DJ Academy. I’ve studied with some of the biggest names in wedding entertainment in the country and internationally. I’ve completed both the “Make it Grand” intensive Grand Entrance Workshop and intensive seminar the “Professional Process” with world renowned author and Wedding Entertainment Director® Peter Merry (WED Guild® Founder and Author of “The Best Wedding Reception…EVER!”) and Wedding Entertainment Director® Elisabeth “Liz” Daley (President of the WED Guild®). I’ve also completed training with Mark and Rebecca Ferrel’s Marbecca Master of Ceremonies program.
I’m also an Akron Torchbearer, a member of the American Disc Jockey Association, a Certified Responsible DJ through the School Dance Network, the former vice president for the International Special Events Society (ISES Cleveland). I have served as a featured recurring remote news correspondent for the Crossfader Show, as an educational speaker/instructor for the Today’s Bride Show, the Mobile Beat Disc Jockey Conference’s Disc Jockey Event Planner Intensive, the University of Akron, Kent State University’s Theatre Design Curriculum, and SYN/HAK.
AJ9: I get to help people make memories on one of the most significant days of their lives. A lot happens on this one little day; it’s jam-packed with activity, and I work together with my clients to stage really special and unique moments — little pockets in time. That’s the stuff that “makes” great memories, great pictures, and great video.
AJ9: This is a two-part answer: 1.) Who will be actually be performing at my wedding? There are a lot of “bait-and-switch” type complaints in this industry, so buyer beware. Not every “DJ” on a company’s roster is guaranteed to be a good match to your style, even if the owner or sales manager does seem to be. 2.) The relationship you have with the person who MCs your wedding is one of the most crucial components of your wedding day experience — how things feel. Make sure you have a great relationship with that person. Some companies make it really difficult to make a connection (!) — you fill out some paperwork and then (maybe) your DJ calls you on the phone, the week before your wedding. Me? I just give you my personal cell phone number, right from the beginning. Easy, direct access. We start planning together from the day you sign an Entertainment Agreement.
H: What’s the question I’m not asking you but you wish I would, or What’s the question that clients usually don’t ask you but you wish they would?
AJ9: How can a girl be a DJ?!?!? LOL — let’s get real, here: it’s the elephant in the room! You’re probably thinking it, on some level, and I’m all-too-happy to answer! I’m a woman working in a male-dominated field, so let’s talk about the *advantages* of choosing a company that values the contribution of both men and women in the workforce.
First and foremost: I’ve been a bride, and I know all the pressures that come along with that role. I’ve used my knowledge to shape Something New Entertainment from the inside-out to have processes for clients that are specifically tailored to streamline and support the creation of events that are cut from the same cloth as our clients.
Second: the majority of our staff — whether male or female — has roots in performing arts and live sound. It’s a formidable background that gives our team an especially rich understanding of the events, emotions, and logistics behind pulling off a first-class fete. From a resume standpoint, my team is incredibly well-qualified to fill this role.
Third: I have a keep-it-real attitude. So, let’s keep it real: I know what the stereotypes of “DJs” are, and I’m *proud* to not fit that mold! Yes — the “stereotypical” DJ is male… he’s also overbearing, cheesy, egotistical, outdated-in-style, and just might ruin your wedding reception!