Derek Hall’s first standing gig as a DJ was in his kitchen. After the twice-weekly dinners he and his college housemates would host for friends, Derek began selecting music for dishes and cleanup--which, he now admits, “was probably just a good ruse to get out of chores!”
No matter the motivation, a hobby was born, and it soon turned into more. Derek spent his college years seeking opportunities to DJ house parties on campus, a process he says involved “finding the house with the most people on the lawn, lugging my stereo system over, and asking if the owners would mind me DJing.”
After graduation, Derek worked as a DJ for several of his housemates’ weddings, fell in love with the craft, and began pursuing as much experience and education as possible. He has studied mixing turntables in New York City and sought out mentors in the field, and Derek and his business partner, Wes, founded The Block Party in 2016.
When an art you love becomes able to meet a need, it’s hard to see the intersection of your gifts and others’ needs as anything but a call. Derek views his business foremost as a vocation--a perspective that brings particular intention, depth, and sincerity to his client experience.
According to Derek, “[this aspect of the job being a vocation] is both our personal journey as we work towards heaven, but also a unique position of being a part of our couples choosing this vocation and helping to send them off on their new journey.
As Catholic vendors with an eye towards this vocation, towards the importance of our faith, and with our hearts pulled towards others on the same path, there is a desire to both support and be supported by peers. To pray for each other. To have one corner of the world to more openly relate on the unique challenges we have while attempting to live our faith in what can be a very secular industry.”
Based in the Ann Arbor and Detroit area, serving Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and available for nationwide bookings--Derek and his wife are lovers of travel who dream of visiting every continent and DJing a wedding in every state--The Block Party embodies this spirit of vocation in everything from up-front investment info to their fellow wedding vendor recommendations to Derek’s desire to make each wedding the best he’s ever done, not for his own gratification, but out of a desire to serve his couples. Yet as seriously as he takes his business and calling, Block Party weddings are engineered for fun and celebration, involving vinyl mixing and creative, well-thought out playlists unique to each gathering.
Music has a power to draw our attention to a particular setting and purpose--that’s one reason why liturgical music, with its purpose of worship and contemplation, is appropriate for a nuptial Mass. In a similar way, the music at your reception can do the same, creating an atmosphere of true joy and emotion that points to a deeper reality.
From Derek: DJ culture on the whole pushes me musically, and I've found mentors around the country that have shown me that there is room for a DJ to bring lots of creativity and passion for music to a wedding setting. Redbull Thre3style, Girltalk, and my Block Party partner Wes are all big inspirations musically.
My wife and our relationship are a huge inspiration for how I work with people. I tend to pour my heart into things and she is my filter, knowing my love language inside and out, and helping me to channel my love and energy to best take care of our couples and our friends. She grounds us so we can try out crazy ideas and big trips. Our faith as a couple pushes us to take ownership of each others work, to pray for our couples, and to treat this as a vocation first, and business secondarily. We still work hard to be prudent and have a responsibility to be good stewards of our brand, but we want to eliminate all used car salesman feels from how we work. Being honest from the beginning and pouring everything we have into each night out of passion and love rather than obligation has gotten us where we are.
An interview with Derek
Favorite devotion: The Divine Mercy Chaplet. It's very approachable in both length and content and the end includes optional prayer that is so life giving for me: "Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself."
Despair, despondency, and a fear of there not being enough compassion are all such powerful things in our lives. This is such a beautiful answer.
By the body and blood of Christ there is enough and we can look for the will of God in our lives.
Favorite part of working on weddings: Nearly everything. Every week is a new puzzle, a completely different combination of family, location, tastes and a hundred other things. I need to take all of that and bring those people together the best I can, and of course try to foster all the dancing. Weddings are a perfect for playing anything that comes to mind because it is such a celebration of people's lives. We can be playful, nostalgic, and really pull out emotional responses just by playing certain songs.
[DJing] is also the perfect outlet for my love language of wanting to give gifts. It is so rewarding to pour years of experience and practice into one night, hopefully making it the best I've ever had, for that couple.
Favorite wedding-day memory: My wife and I did our first look on a dock...on a frozen lake...with a nerf gun duel that she didn't know about till that morning. There are so many parts of the day I still love, that were beautiful capsules of our relationships with our friends and family. We did a waltz and an Irish dance together that were also a ton of fun.
On my bucket list: Travel to all continents with my wife, spend 3-6 months abroad in one chunk, and DJ a wedding in every state—this combines my loves of travel, people, and DJing into one nice goal
Favorite place I’ve traveled: Ethiopia. I've been blessed to a do a bit of travel, but this trip was quietly brewing for over a decade. My wife spent a few years in Kenya when she was little and her parents were doing mission work. Her heart has always been tugged towards doing work in Africa, and when we were in undergrad, as best friends, I'd tell her someday she'd find a guy who would get it and be up for the adventure with her. All this time later when we finally decided to date and then marry, and I was that guy, we made a trip to Ethiopia for a week of work, and a week of exploring. It gave me so much more context of who she is.
Favorite music: Music is so hard. I love how much music timestamps life. I love learning and growing my music tastes. It's my job, but I also love almost any music I come across.
Favorite food: Grilled chicken, pierogies, or salad work any night and are easy to make for guests. Or anything my brother makes. He's a chef in LA and has changed my world about food as an art and science.
I root for...the Pittsburgh Steelers, who I’ve been watching with my wife forever, the Detroit Pistons, and Detroit Tigers. I love basketball.
Love means...Love is not a feeling or an emotion. So many things happen in life that can quickly totally shake or even break your snowglobe. Depression, putting on weight, losing jobs, and other struggles are things that can happen in life, especially when you are around a friend or a spouse for a long time. You aren't broken if you can't feel. Even in our faith, sometimes we can feel cold and don't feel on fire. God sticks with us and is patient. He offers forgiveness and has shown us how there is beauty and love in sacrifice and pain. Love means persistence, a gentle heart, and vision of someone that goes beyond the last few moments to know the beauty and value they have. Love is doing what we can to get our spouse to heaven.