RANDALL — The disc jockeys at the middle school Valentine's Dance at Randall School Friday night knew just what to play to get the kids on the dance floor — mainly because they are middle-schoolers, too.
"Renegades," student council member Carly Rohn, 13, said of the hit single by the group X Ambassador.
Rohn, an eighth-grader at Randall, volunteered along with seventh-graders Cassidy Phillips, 13, and Lena Morgan, 12, to DJ at school dances sponsored by the Student Council.
"I love doing it," Rohn said. "It is actually really fun."
They worked with the school's computer specialist Jason Adams for about a month to put together more than two hours of music — chosen by students and approved by staff — for the dance.
Adams, a former DJ, said he came up with the idea of bringing the role in house after chaperoning one of the school dances.
"It is something the kids are capable of doing," Adams said, adding that he already had the equipment and the school has the sound system.
Student Council adviser Karen Reddin said the students develop leadership, teamwork and organizational skills. And it has saved money by eliminating the need to hire a DJ at a cost of several hundred dollars per dance.
"This is just another example of how learning becomes real," Reddin said. "It not only does a lot for the students involved, but it is a cost saving to our Student Council."
The student DJs started by developing a Google song request form that could be accessed by students from each of the five schools invited to the dance.
The winter dance is attended by more than 200 sixth- through eighth-grade students from Wilmot High School feeder schools.
"As of yesterday (Thursday) there were 512 (submitted song request forms)," Rohn said.
Adams said accepting song requests in advance helps the DJs get a sense of what students want to hear and allows them to purchase the song if it is not in the existing music library.
Reddin said it also allowed staff to review the requests for appropriate content and eliminated the issue of student DJs having to turn down song requests at the dance. For example, "Cake by the Ocean," by DNCE, is one of the requested songs that got nixed.
Reddin said she recalls having to tell professional DJs to stop playing certain songs in the past.
"I don't have to monitor the music," Reddin said, which allows her to attend to other needs at the dance.
Lena said they have a mix of genres in the playlist, which can be changed to fit the dynamic at the dance.
The DJ simply drags a song title from one computer frame to another if they want to play a specific song. They also control the lighting on another laptop.
In addition to a variety of tempos, the DJs made sure to include interactive songs such as the "Cupid Shuffle," and the "Cha, Cha, Slide." Their plan was to end the evening with "the old song, 'Sweet Caroline,'" Rohn said.
"It is empowering," Adams said of the experience. "They are in control of the evening. I provide very little help."