Community Profile: Creating a journey through music

Local DJ Joseph Thompson thrives on creating experiences through the music he produces

Coal Ridge High School senior Joseph Thompson surprises students with a special performance during Thursday night's basketball game.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“Turn off the lights! Turn off the lights!” the crowd yelled as Joseph Thompson stood behind his music mixing board and flashing strobe lights inside the school gym during Thursday night’s special halftime performance on senior night.

This is what the young DJ strives for and loves about mixing music. That feeling when the music blends, the beat drops and the crowd reacts is what keeps his heart beating.

“The thing I really enjoy is that feeling of being able to guide everyone else. It’s a really cool experience being able to create something … being able to create this experience,” Thompson said. “Being able to craft something that I like but also something that is valuable to everyone else is really cool.”

With the help of Coal Ridge High School Athletic Director, Ben Kirk, Joseph was able to grow his experience and turn it into a self-owned business at the age of 16. He is the sole-proprietor of DJ Event Horizon.

Thompson admitted to being a space nerd and said the name idea comes from the event horizon which by definition means a theoretical boundary around a black hole beyond which no light or other radiation can escape.

“I kind of discovered I liked DJing from someone at my church but the business itself really grew when Mr. Kirk, our athletic director, my sophomore year heard that I did some stuff with music and asked me just to play music during JV games so that it wasn’t awkwardly silent during time-outs,” he said. “One day I just decided to bring a mixer and go all the way with it. So then it just grew and it’s a registered business now.”

The idea of having Thompson play during games initially came up during the Coal Ridge captains’ council meeting, which consists of the top 12 student-athletes that work to build school spirit and help with community projects.

Coal Ridge High School senior Joseph Thompson is the sole-proprietor of DJ Event Horizon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“We were brainstorming how to make home games more exciting and fun for the spectators,” Kirk said. “I suggested that we have a student play music on their phone during timeouts and halftime. One of the captains council members suggested we use Joseph Thompson to play music and at the time I had no idea how talented he was.”

Love of music

Thompson has always been interested in music. During his sophomore year he was selected as a first tenor sax player in the Colorado All State Small Schools Jazz Band and was one of the top 20 tenor sax players in the state for his age group.

“That was cool, but I decided that wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do, so I kind of redirected that into this whole DJ thing because I really love electronic music. It kind of was a way to redirect my passion for music,” he said.

Playing for the people

It’s common practice for teams to play music during warm-ups, but it’s not often you see a young performer with a mixing board at a high school sports game.

Thompson enjoys being able to personalize and change up the playlist based on what the players ask for. Parents and peers alike give him feedback after or before the games and he makes adjustments based on these requests.

“I honestly think we have one of the best atmospheres for home sporting events at least on the Western Slope if not in the entire state, and I 100% think Joseph is the source of that,” Kirk said. “People love to come here and listen to Joseph’s work.”

Behind the scenes

Mixing music goes beyond just showing up and playing some tunes. The work starts beforehand when planning out what songs to work with.

“The BPMs (beats per minute) have to be similar so that’s kind of what you do, you change BPMs so the beats line up. The thing I do is put in the work before to make sure my (music) library is sorted in a way that makes sense to me,” he said. “I sort it by genre and BPM so I can really quickly find what I want.”

This pre-DJ session work allows Joseph to quickly adapt to the response he is getting from everyone around him.

Coal Ridge High School senior Joseph Thompson DJs for the players and crowd during the warm up at a Coal Ridge basketball.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“Joseph is amazing. Most people that just listen to his music probably don’t know that he is literally a genius,” Kirk said. “He scored over 1500 on his SAT this past year. What I value most about Joseph is his initiative and professionalism.”

Creating a musical journey

Mixing music for Thompson is a way to lead people through a journey and set the tone for the night. He pays close attention to the way the crowds react and the vibe they are letting off.

“It’s really cool that you can mix songs together and create this journey; I think a good DJ really does that,” he said. “It kind of tells a story with the music and can really create a vibe. It’s really cool that you can be in control of how a night feels. You can kind of weave everything together; something about it just really speaks to me.”

Thompson is looking forward to the future after he turns 18 and broadens his venue options. He is already working towards gaining recognition through streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify, where his work is available for purchase.

“That’s the real way to have a sustainable career in the DJ industry because the music is the way to make sure people come to your shows; it does all the advertising for you,” he said. “And it’s just really awesome to play something that you made.”

For Thompson, mixing music is all about the experience and the emotional ride that comes with it.

“There are definitely times when I’m mixing and I just discover something that works really well. A lot of it is just the energy that it creates… it just feels really powerful; it has a lot of emotional impact,” he said.

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