It’s the big party of the year… the school end-of-term disco! While not suited to every DJ’s skillset, school disco parties can be a lucrative source of midweek work as well as providing a great showcase that can lead to more bookings, both for children’s disco parties and even adult functions.
I know a lot of DJs are now performing at the American-style Prom disco events that are becoming more and more popular at secondary schools. However, this is not my market, I cater for a much younger age group. I specialise in discos for primary schools where the age range is 5 to 11 year olds, which can be split into Key Stage 1 (5-7 year olds) and Key Stage 2 (8-11 year olds).
Last year I shared some of my ideas and advice for DJing at children’s birthday parties in Pro Mobile and in this article I’ll discuss how I take these principles and scale them up to entertain 100 to 150+ children. DJing at school discos can be great fun, but these gigs need to be approached very differently to parties for adults or even teenagers.
The biggest complaint that I’ve heard about DJs performing at school discos is that they just play music, which usually results in the children getting bored and just running around the hall or sitting down and chatting. Children lose interest very quickly and then find other ways to amuse themselves! To be a successful school disco DJ, it’s important to keep the children engaged from start to finish, regularly switching things up and giving them lots of different ways to get involved.
Just like when I host a child’s birthday party, I start all school discos by asking the children to sit down and I then welcome them and set the tone for what is to come. I engage with them by asking if they are looking forward to their summer holiday / Christmas etc. which will normally get a loud cheer. I then explain that even though they are at school, and normally they have to be fairly quiet, this is ‘their party’ so they can make as much noise as they want! This usually results in another, even louder, response. Already I am engaging with the children, which makes it much easier to kick off the dancing with a full dance-floor. I usually do this by setting up a competition between the boys and the girls. “Who are the best dancers, boys or girls?” I ask. You can imagine the reply! I’ll then play one of the most popular songs of the moment and hit the ground running with a packed floor.
Now we all know children have a short attention span, so it’s no good following the opener with another pop song. Instead, I usually switch to a party action dance song, suitable to the age group, and lead the way on the dance-floor showing them the moves.
Next I’ll move into a simple game, again choosing something appropriate for the age group. For Key Stage 1, Musical Statues works well, as does The Limbo. (Although make sure you take extra poles, as the kids will soon get bored if they have to queue up waiting for 100+ others to go ahead of them!) Follow the Leader is another good choice, which can be made more fun if you line up the children into their class years. This then turns it into a little competition which they will love. Getting the class teachers to lead the way in Follow The Leader - showing how cool and funky they are - also works a treat!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 73, Pages 40-42.