Local DJs Jannell Summers and Lavonte Pugh will perform at an event called Dance This Mess Around at Mark III Taproom on Jan. 21. The event was organized by Summers and Pugh to help connect students with downtown Muncie. Lavonte Pugh // Photo Provided
Student, local DJ bridge communities with dance event
It's not easy to start a career in music, especially in a small city, but for local DJs Jannell Summers and Lavonte Pugh, the Muncie community was vital to their success.
Summers and Pugh will be performing at an event called Dance This Mess Around at Mark III Taproom Jan. 21. The pair of DJs want the event to help connect students with the downtown area.
Both Muncie residents, Summers and Pugh owe a lot to the community.
What: Dance This Mess Around
Where: Mark III Taproom
When: 10 p.m. Jan. 21
Attendees must be 21 or older
Summers originally planned to join the college community in Muncie by attending Ball State to study journalism. She soon changed her major to English, but only spent a few semesters in class before dropping out.
After leaving Ball State, Summers was busy juggling day jobs, and in 2008 she worked her first official gig as a DJ for a friend’s wedding.
She loved it.
In order to advance her DJing career, she continued to work during the week and performed at weddings on the weekend.
The now-34-year-old DJ works every Friday night at the Fickle Peach, but she does not just rely on the community to visit the bar.
At the beginning of one of her performances, Summers’ controller, a device necessary for her shows, broke. Because she had recently spent her savings on a new house, Summers was in no position to purchase a new one and had to max out a credit card in order to buy it.
With all of her emergency money spent, she was left to wonder if it was time to find a more steady job.
"I didn’t whine a lot. I mentioned it to a couple people, I was like 'man, this is rough, I really hope I get some more gigs,'" Summers said.
Eventually, however, she received a surprise donation of $800 that had been raised by the community to pay off her credit card.
She had always enjoyed playing locally for the exposure and familiar faces, but now it feels even more personal.
"I'm always like stoked when it feels like the bars are a little bit busier when I've been playing, because it feels like I've done something significant besides just play records," she said.
The community has helped her in more ways than that. Living in a small city makes networking easier, and if it weren't for the small community, she might have not been introduced to Pugh.
Summers first met Pugh when they were working in separate rooms at a Halloween event. She had never gotten the chance to work with him until he was pushed by their mutual friend to reach out to her.
Pugh, who is a junior at Ball State and is majoring in audio telecommunications, has been interested in music since he joined his middle school's band. He began producing music in high school and has been DJing for about five years.
With the help of his friends, Pugh has come a long way from playing DJ video games like "DJ HERO 2" and "Magix Music Maker."
Pugh works under the artist name SPACExLION and has done most of his DJing in The Village. He is also currently running Ball State’s Electronic Dance Music Collective club.
"Participation in that organization further spurred me on and became a constant source of inspiration and helpful criticism," Pugh said. "Now I run the EDMC and I hope to do that for other aspiring producers."
When he was encouraged to reach out to Summers, Pugh was not yet 21, so it was difficult to get gigs downtown.
Once Summers found out that Pugh had turned 21, she reached out to Mark III Taproom to try and create this event.
Summers is hoping to create an atmosphere that is similar to an event in Indianapolis called Real Talk.
"It's just like a big celebratory dance thing and they play all kinds of music. That's just really what I want to emulate here, like maybe not rip them off, but very much imitate for sure," Summers said.
Summers and Pugh hope to bring the Muncie and Ball State communities together with this event — communities that have inspired and given them a place to feel at home.