11-year-old Philly deejay plays gigs at White House and DNC

First Lady Michelle Obama with (from left to right) Jordan Royale Poole of the Scratch Academy; Dylan Curtis, 11; and Amos Curtis on July 14, 2016 in the Blue Room at the White House prior to the Kids' State Dinner.

I love hearing about local kids from modest means who defy stereotypes and excel against the odds.

Take Dylan Curtis. He's only 11, but he spent his summer working as a professional deejay at a number of high-profile events, including some at the White House.


Dylan, who goes by "DJ D-Ill," performed at Wawa Welcome America! on a kids stage and also did a couple of gigs associated with the Democratic National Convention.

His all-time biggest coup, though, was getting a call to perform at a White House state dinner for kids in July hosted by none other than first lady Michelle Obama. He must really have done well, because he got invited back earlier this month for a private event at the White House, details of which his father declined to disclose. Dylan's next big appearance will be at a family skating event at Penns Landing on Sept. 3, and he's already booked into 2017 for an awards show in New Orleans.

"I always tell people, when they ask him to deejay, you know he's 11," laughed his father, Amos Curtis, 38, also a professional deejay, who goes by "DJ Nochaser." "He's an old soul."

Dylan's dad and mother, Zandra Lodge, were high school sweethearts. Dylan is their second child behind brother Devon, 20, also a professional deejay. who performs under the name "DJ Swelly."

Dylan, who's going into sixth grade, used to tag along with his dad and brother on their music gigs, and along the way became fascinated with the family business.

But he didn't get serious about it until two years ago. after getting sidelined by a soccer injury. It wasn't long before he was deejaying kids' birthday parties, even after a setback when a house fire destroyed his equipment. His dad also enrolled him at Scratch Academy, at Second and Market Streets, to refine his skills. Still, his parents were surprised when he got a call earlier this year from Welcome America! Organizers needed a deejay to play music for the kids' stage.

"I'm like, OK, they want him to play. That's interesting. He's only 11. But they were really impressed," recalled Lodge, 37, a nursing assistant. "It's still kind of unbelievable. It's been like a crazy three months for us."

Other jobs quickly followed, including the White House and DNC gigs. For Dylan, it's been one exciting summer. He's been places and experienced things that a whole lot of adults will never get to enjoy. I can't get over his getting not just one, but two invitations to perform at the White House.

"I like being at parties to play music and I actually love music. That's what made me want to be a deejay," he told me last week. "I like hip-hop, some R&B, and I do a little bit of house and old school."

I giggled when he brought up old-school music. I mean, c'mon. I asked him, Who's your favorite old school artist?

"Probably Biggie [Smalls]," Dylan said. "I like funky music, too. I like James Brown."

Barry White, too.

Alrighty now.

But don't get it twisted, as they say. Dylan may have a taste for oldies, but he's up to date, too. When I asked him about more current music, Dylan said, "I like Fetty Wap and Drake."

Do you ever get stage fright?


"Sometimes I have butterflies in my stomach," he told me. "Sometimes I'm shy in the beginning, but once I get used to it, I'm fine."

When he's not working on his craft, he enjoys reading mysteries and action novels - in addition to the books on his summer reading list.

And get this. Next week, he starts classes at the Haverford School, an elite, all-boys school on the Main Line. That's an even bigger accomplishment than performing at the White House.

Dylan's one to keep an eye on, that's for sure.


Blog: ph.ly/HeyJen