Every DJ at a youth event could push play for the newest Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga hit song, then turn up the volume and expect the teenagers to dance.
But that’s the easy way out, says Maple Grove DJ Bill Lage, who sets himself apart by turning his routine junior high dances and wedding receptions into interactive performances. The self-described entertainer will use his wireless microphone to joke, prompt or otherwise entice all attendees to get involved at the nearly 70 events he works each year.
“If the DJs focus on themselves, they are going to lose,” says Lage, who has 16 years experience as a DJ, including seven based in Maple Grove. “It’s not about me. In fact, no one gives a crud about me. It’s about making them feel like part of the show, making sure they are the star and getting them involved.”
If DJ Bill—as the kids call him—is performing at dances at Osseo or Maple Grove junior high schools, more students will attend, says Tanya Hilger, youth outreach coordinator for Maple Grove Parks and Recreation. “The kids love him,” she says. “He is very interactive with the kids.”
Inspiration to entertain originated when Lage was underwhelmed by a DJ’s performance at a Catholic rally in 1986. The then-16-year-old heard Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”—and thought he could do a better job. “I went to that rally to get away from the secular stuff and get away from negative thoughts,” says Lage, now 40. “I wanted to get away, and when they played that song, it was not a good fit. … It was too suggestive for a rally like that.”
Today, DJ Bill’s reach stretches from Alaska to New York as he travels across the nation hosting Catholic youth rallies. His message is clean and positive fun, aided by edited Top-40 tunes. “I consider it a ministry,” Lage says. “It’s using secular music to open them up to a message and allowing them to be proud of their faith.”
Lage learned a four-part line dance during a DJ convention in the Twin Cities seven years ago and began passing on the steps to young Catholics at rallies. The kids started doing the routine at their high schools, and it became known as the “Catholic Dance.” In 2009, Lage taught more than 18,000 kids the Tae Bo-like dance at a rally in the Sprint Arena in Kansas City, Mo. “It’s about you enjoying the song or the dance and going to your neighbor and saying, ‘Hey, I learned this thing called the Catholic Dance.’ … It’s about evangelizing and sharing your faith with other people.”
Lage does administrative and technology training for Re/Max North Central real estate during the day, but his passion comes out during youth events at the Maple Grove Community Center or weddings in Fargo, N.D. In early December, he drove through a snowstorm to entertain kids at St. Wendelin Parish near St. Cloud. “We had whiteout conditions that night, and I was not sure he was going to make it,” says Geralyn Hurrle, youth leader at St. Wendelin. “But he did, and he did an amazing job,”
Praise from parents at that youth dance will be music to Lage’s ears. “They said that most of the kids up dancing and participating were ones that the parents didn’t think would be the first to dance,” Hurrle says. “Every adult there was appreciative that [the kids] were up there participating.”
It isn’t the sound of the music that gets Lage enthused; it’s the sounds of the kids. “I like hearing a reaction,” says Lage, whose music requests often range from polka to Top-40. “Hearing everyone scream or react to the song and get really excited. That pop of energy and enthusiasm gets me going. Makes me feel pretty good. Gives me a high.”
Lage is often looked at as a guy with a cool job, but for every hour Lage spends entertaining, he spends another hour away from maintaining his DJ business, TK Sound Mobile Music Service. He sets up gigs, sends out contracts, travels and works weekends. During the last week of January, Lage spent nine hours entertaining at three events in a 24-hour span from Maple Grove to New Brighton and Shakopee. “It’s the enjoyment and passion of entertaining that outweighs all that,” Lage says.
TK Sound Mobile Music Service isn’t the cheapest DJ option for a party (packages range from $750 to more than $1,700), but Lage says people see the value in his work and want him back. “When they have me start, they don’t want me to stop,” Lage says. “I keep coming back year after year.”
DJ Bill Lage will give your party more than music; and he will give it to Maple Grove Magazine readers for less. Lage is offering a 25 percent discount on any wedding show, which currently ranges from $1,200-$1,500. On youth events, he will come to a new school or church for $500, which is $250 less than his normal school event fee. “I know they will see a difference,” he says. Reach Lage at 763.773.7337; 612.387.1900; firstname.lastname@example.org