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Livingston, N.J. – For Jason Zaplin, it all started when he discovered dancing.

In third grade, he performed a choreographed Michael Jackson song in an elementary school talent show. He received a lot of compliments and a seed had been planted.

Today, he’s the owner of DJ Zap Music, a DJ company in northern New Jersey, about 20 miles west of Manhattan, and dancing now plays a big part of his professional life. We asked DJ Zap about his career trajectory.

DJ Times: You were inspired as a 14-year old when Emmitt Smith won “Dancing with the Stars.”

DJ Zap: It was November of 2006. When Emmitt Smith won the “Dancing with the Stars” competition, I saw that a professional athlete had perfected the art of ballroom dancing. I, too, was an athlete – I played club soccer, baseball, basketball and tennis – and realized that dancing is a sport, as well. I continued to play travel soccer, but started to take ballroom-dancing lessons.

What did ballroom dancing teach you?

Ballroom dancing taught me strong discipline and teamwork, because you need to work together with your partner to perform the various dance moves correctly. I participated in dance competitions and enjoyed the experience of being judged with my partner. It is not an easy sport to master, but practicing three or four days a week helped build my strength, flexibility and confidence.

You worked for another company – how did you start your own thing?

I started my own business in my teens after DJing as a hobby and working as a motivational dancer for the other DJ companies. I assembled a great crew of DJs and dancers and started getting jobs through word-of-mouth and reputation. I got into the business because I was trained ballroom dancer that also loved music and sports. Dancing is a sport, so I put both passions together and started my business.

What were two big challenges you faced when starting? How did you meet those challenges?

As a young newcomer to the business, the challenge was to get my name out into the marketplace and create brand recognition. I had a great reputation as a dancer and DJ in my local area, but I wanted to expand that reach into the tri-state area. I created a website, attended trade shows, reached out to event planners and attended numerous networking events. Through networking, I’ve worked with many party planners, namely Collin Cowie, Stacey Baumer, and Jenny Orsini.

How has ballroom dancing enhanced your business?

I’ve always had lots of energy and put that energy into competing on town and high school sports teams. As I said, I had been hired as a motivational dancer by other DJs and became the person to hire to liven up a party. When I decided to start my DJ business, the fact that I could dance with both adults and children was attractive to my clients. I truly believe that being a trained ballroom dancer is a skill that has served me well. I truly love to dance and enjoy engaging partygoers on the dancefloor. There’s nothing better than playing great music and seeing your guests have a great time. That’s what a party or celebration is all about!

How do you market the ballroom dancing?

When I meet with a prospective client, I let them know my dance background and assure them that I will do my best, tactfully, to engage their guests. I’m not only the DJ, but I help motivate the guests into having a fun time. Most clients realize the value I bring and hire me based on my energy level and commitment to making sure their party is a success.

Are you single-op? How do you market your services?

Yes, I am a single operator, but have a great crew of DJs and dancers on call for the events we handle. I market my services through my website, Instagram and Facebook posts, and promotional materials, such as cards, brochures, t-shirts sweatshirts. hats and wristbands. I also DJ at many of the Event Planner functions. The last one I did was PB Live with Preston Bailey, the renowned wedding and event designer.

For a typical gig – a wedding or mitzvah, say – what gear do you use?

Serato DJ software with a Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX3 and a QSC active PA – K12.2 speakers and KW181 subwoofers. Among my lighting packages, I use ADJ Inno Roll LED lights, plus Chauvet DJ Swarm FX lights and Scorpion Series lights. I use Global Truss stands and I can hang a pair of 60-inch plasmas on poles. I can do photo streaming, custom montages, and at the client’s request, we can decorate the dancefloor with customized lighting of the person’s name or other graphics.

How have you been doing during the lockdown? Did you get cancelations or postponements?

I have been doing my best to keep busy during the lockdown. I’ve done several DJ sessions online to raise money for charitable institutions, namely the American Cancer Society. I’ve also helped deliver masks and food for people in need. I feel good about giving to my community in this time of need. I am hoping to set up a program in my town whereby I can play music in the neighborhoods at a certain time each day to bring some happiness to the residents. I am also keeping busy by setting up TVs in homes and backyards for my clients to view their child’s virtual graduation from high school and college. I’ve had many cancellations and postponements, and I am hoping I can reschedule most of these events. I’m eager to get back to work, but understand that the safety and health of my clients is the priority right now.

How do you see growing your company — what’s the vision for the future?

The vision for my company is to expand further into the corporate market, college events and fundraising functions. The crux of my business are celebratory events, such as Mitzvahs, weddings, communions, anniversaries, graduations, birthdays, etc. I love making these events special and memorable for my clients.

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