When Collin Oliver discovered his dad’s old DJ equipment in their garage, something clicked in the 10-year-old.
He began following music, and after experimenting with DJ apps on his iPad for a few years, Oliver received a $250 DJ pedal for his 13th birthday, the cheapest one his parents could find. “He hasn’t come out of his room since,” Oliver’s dad Jay joked.
The pedal became his instrument, and soon Oliver had a full DJ set. He began making his own music, and a passion was born.
Now 14, the DJ has been performing professionally for almost a year after getting his first gig in August 2016. He produces and performs his own music and mixes, a combination that he regards in equal importance. But the first performance proved daunting.
“I was so nervous,” Oliver said, recounting how he was shaking on stage and his vision blurred as he stepped behind the DJ’s booth. But not long into the set, the music took over, and he hasn’t turned back. “You just do it,” he said of overcoming the stage fright. “How do you learn to swim? You jump in the water and do it. That’s what I did.”
Oliver has encountered plenty of adversity in his short time as a DJ, and not just from his own nerves. “I get a lot of crap from kids at school. There’s a lot of haters.” But Oliver doesn’t let the haters get to him. “I express everything through music,” he said. “Music is my outlet.”
In addition to the bullies are the doubters. Before heading into gigs, Oliver acknowledged that a lot of people there underestimate him, especially due to his young age. But by the end of the night, the crowd is always on his side.
Despite the challenges, Oliver’s parents, support him and are, “fully into it,” he said. Jay refers to himself as the young DJ’s roadie, adding that “It’s all [Collin]. He pushes us.”
His parents are also footing the bill for Oliver’s two music teachers: one for production and one for piano. And, Jay — himself a former DJ in Florida before moving back to New York in 1996 — was instrumental in scoring Collin his first gig.
Jay told his friend Mike Danon, owner of the party boat Sapphire Princess on Freeport’s Nautical Mile, that his son was a DJ, and if Danon was ever in need of one to give him a call. Two weeks later, a DJ scheduled to perform on the Princess was a no-show, and Danon gave Collin and Jay an urgent call. From there, Oliver’s business took off.
“He came into the office with these professional cards made up and he was so well spoken, like an adult,” Danon said of his first professional encounter with Oliver. After telling Danon he was a DJ, Oliver asked if Danon would give him a chance. “So I gave him a shot.”
Danon said that Oliver’s first performance was a hit. “He’s very talented,” he said. “He plays for the crowd and not for himself.” Oliver has become a regular performer aboard Danon’s Sapphire Princess party boat ever since.
After finding success, Oliver said that some of his friends approach him asking “Can I do what you do? I want to get girls.” But according to Oliver, girls, celebrity or money were not the reasons he became a DJ. “It’s a passion first,” he said, adding that to be a successful DJ is to love making and performing the music.
He said his ultimate goal is to play at festivals like Ultra or Electric Daisy Carnival, and that he keeps up-to-date by watching the performances through live streams. But rather than simply watching and enjoying the music, Oliver studies the performances. He said he examines everything from technique, to improvisation to stage performance from artists like Martin Garrix and Calvin Harris.
He will take any chance he can to learn more about the profession. When EDC hit Citi Field in Queens last year, Oliver lamented that he would not be able to attend because he was not 18. But he was determined to not miss out. Knowing that his grandmother was set to land at La Guardia that day, Oliver’s mother took him along to pick up her up so that — on the way to the airport — he could hear the music as they passed Citi Field. He loved it, he said.
For someone like Oliver, whose art is less-traditional than playing an instrument like the guitar or trumpet, learning the trade of DJ has a unique set of challenges, he said. While he credits his two music teachers with helping him develop the basics, he said that he has made much progress teaching himself. He has learned music making and mixing by doing, experimenting, and a whole lot of trial and error. Oliver has also taught himself to use DJ software and equipment with help from his teachers and instructional videos on YouTube. He is his own songwriter, producer and audio technician; three jobs which are often held by different individuals.
Oliver is also a building a brand for himself, with a full Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube presence to boot. He has found some relative success in his year of performing, and says he wants to be known as DJ Collin Oliver, hoping the name will be well-recognized one day. But beyond self-promotion, the music is his main engine. “There’s always new tracks,” he said. “It never gets boring.”
Collin is available for private events year round. For business inquiries, contact 516-509-9418 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find Collin on social media @djcollinoliver.