Like cello players or opera singers, disc jockeys are skillful artists.
DJs play music live for audiences, and their interactions are often more personal than other musicians because they can engage directly with the crowd.
Dorian Fitzgerald — known professionally as Joli Desir — graduated from the Music Recording Technology program at Salt Lake Community College in December 2021. Music has been a constant aspect of Fitzgerald’s life for as long as she can remember.
Originally from Los Angeles, Fitzgerald moved to Utah eight years ago at age 12. Her mother played the trumpet for fun and worked in the music and TV industry as an assistant. Gigs included behind-the-scenes work on television shows like “Family Matters” and “The Cosby Show.”
“I grew up around music,” Fitzgerald said. “My parents would play all kinds of genres. House music was something I [related] to, and with time, the bond got more robust and persuaded me to be a DJ.”
Fitzgerald found that calling in 2018, and cited influence from well-known DJs like Disclosure, Kaytranada and Fisher. Her sound mixes house, acid, underground and techno. Her goal, she said, has always been to provide an experience that gets people talking after they leave one of her sets.
“[When performing] I feel unstoppable, ecstatic and on the top of the world,” Fitzgerald said. “Especially when I am killing a set, and the music sounds good, I feel unstoppable. I wish I could always kill the game when I am mixing.”
Fitzgerald occasionally performs at YotelPad in Park City and said she is now working on refining her sound as a DJ and producer.
“The biggest thing for me is being able to continue being me with my sound and message,” Fitzgerald said, adding that she dreams of playing in Ibiza, Spain or Cannes, France – dream gigs for most DJs.
Like Fitzgerald, Deshaun White — known professionally as D Smoove — described music as a life passion.
Last year, White nabbed a nomination for the Daily Herald’s “Best Local DJ in Utah County.” Originally from Cleveland, White spent time growing up in Athens, Georgia, and since then, he said, music has held an important place in his life.
“My biggest influences are my parents for enriching my bloodline with music,” White said. “Although they never really played instruments or performed, hip hop and R&B music were always around.”
White’s journey as a DJ began in 2009 at age 13 with a video game called “DJ Hero,” which has morphed into a much bigger ambition in the years since.
“I see myself being a part of some of the biggest shows and concerts across the country,” White said, which include festivals like Chicago’s Lollapalooza and Belgium’s Tomorrowland.
White said he has been “quite blessed” to work with experienced DJs across the state, including DJ Mak, a Salt Lake City DJ who plays in many venues across the city like Salt Palace, Karma and Echo Nightclub.
Being recognized as one of the best local DJs marks a significant milestone in his career, White said. Still, he noted that patience is crucial as he works his way up in the music industry.
“It takes years and years of dedication and hard work to get to where I want to be,” White said. “It is not easy … There are many great DJs in Salt Lake City, and unless you are patient and wait your turn, you will give up easily.”
Regarding Utah’s music scene, White sees room for growth and believes that development will happen.
“As the culture continues to move at such speed and direction, Utah will be famous for its nightlife and music scene,” he said.
Both White and Fitzgerald shared similar advice for newcomers: consistency and persistence are key.
“If you believe in yourself and your art, you can achieve anything. Just be focused and do it,” White said.
Fitzgerald said, “It can be hard to do when you first start. Even when you have done it for a while, you still are unsure. But, once you really get into it and see how amazing you can be, you should keep going.”