The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


When a hobby becomes a career



Everyone has his or her favorite hobby or activity to do on a rainy day. For some, it’s reading or baking. Most college students like to binge-watch Netflix or Hulu. And yet, there are the people who find something productive and unique to do with their free time. For SMU senior Niko Pappas, he’s found a way to both make money and have a good time through a hobby.

You might’ve seen him playing under the Phi Gamma Delta tent at Boulevards, or heard him on the weekends at Avenu Lounge on McKinney Ave. You guessed it… he’s a disc jockey. And in the three and a half years since he first started, he’s become one of the top DJs in Dallas.

“Ironically my dad was a DJ in college. I had no idea.” Pappas said. “My dad, when I asked him, thought I was playing a joke on him from my mom.”

The interest in DJing started his freshman year of college, stemming from an interest in the growing electronic dance music scene and his childhood in New York City. After a little convincing, his parents invested in his first controller, which is a starter DJ set up.

Another student in the dorms (Pappas lived in Boaz) happened to be interested in DJing as well, and became a mentor and teacher for Pappas during the early days of his career.

“He kind of taught me the first steps about being a DJ and how to be a DJ at the most basic level,” Pappas said. From there, he learned more techniques on his own and developed relationships with other mentors.

Pappas has a unique way of practicing for live performances. While in the beginning, he would spend between four to five hours a day practicing in his dorm or apartment, he now challenges himself during his practice sessions.

“Pick a location. That’s how I practice,” he said. “I’m going to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to pretend that I’m DJing for 10,000 people at a huge rave. I’m going to pretend that I’m in a small room with 50 people and no lights and I need to play for them.’ I do that because it strengthens my skills and my understanding of crowds. You want to keep them on their toes. You want to keep them interested, and to do that takes time and practice for sure.”

His skill strengthening practice techniques have paid off. While Pappas initially DJed for his fraternity’s parties, he has graduated to Dallas and New York City nightclubs. He’s also traveled to Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, as well as Cabo San Lucas for DJing opportunities. In the fall of 2013, Pappas DJed for upwards of 5,000 fans at Breakaway Music Festival in Frisco, Texas.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me to have 5,000 people looking at you and expecting you to do a good job,” he said, rather than in a club where people aren’t looking at the DJ until he/she makes them look.

His pay-off has also come in the form of awards. In 2012, Pappas won his first award, the Mixmaster Award, which honors the top 10 grossing DJs in Dallas. Within a year, Pappas jumped five spots on the list, ranking him at the number five highest grossing DJ in Dallas in 2013, with his second Mixmaster award.

“The awards are really just kind of mind-blowing to me because I never thought that I would ever get an award for DJing,” he says. “It really just reminds me that I’m doing something right. Because for so long, I really didn’t think that I was that good. I didn’t realize that I was distinguishing myself from others.”

Pappas now holds the Friday night residency slot as the Avenu Lounge DJ. His sets have helped spark the popularity of the nightclub and make Avenu the clubgoer’s paradise for a fun Friday night. If you’ve never experienced one of his sets, it’s filled with confetti, CO2 canons, light shows and amazing music. The club is packed to capacity with both a large SMU and Dallas presence. It’s become a necessity to get on a guest list for the nights that Pappas performs.

With graduation right around the corner for Pappas in May, the senior film major plans on staying in Dallas to continue his Avenu residency, while pursuing opportunities in film and media. But before he walks across that stage to receive his diploma, he has a few more goals to accomplish. In April, Pappas will be performing at the three-day Bounce Music Festival, in Bloomington, Ind. for a crowd that ranges between 10,000 and 20,000 people.

He also plans to start releasing podcasts on his SoundCloud, which he hopes will expand his fan base’s knowledge of music and, more specifically, electronic dance music. Pappas also updates his Facebook page with remixes that he likes and information about upcoming performances.

For some, the concept of DJing and clubbing simply sounds like a good time. For others, it’s associated with illicit drugs and binge drinking. But for Pappas, it means something different.

“I just think it stands for something so much more important than people actually think it stands for. Especially to the younger generations,” he said. “It gives them the opportunity to have fun and let loose and go crazy and be with a bunch of random people that they don’t know and just say ‘I like what that DJ or producer is doing and I’m going to go to that room and stand with hundreds of people around me because I like what he is doing and it brings me joy.’”

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