ShadeZ and DJ AmBeat work like student athletes, perform like it's a party

The life of a student DJ is similar to that of a student-athlete. Both are responsible for balancing education and a time-consuming extracurricular activity. Just like athletes, a DJ attends classes early in the day and practices between homework.

Their practice is finding music, mixing and producing it, and listening to music constantly for inspiration. They prepare for their gig — their “game” — and they finally perform in front of an audience. But for two ASU students, DJing is not all just pushing buttons. It takes work.

But a DJ who goes to ASU? Tell me how many times you've heard that one before. They might be a dime a dozen, but there are two local DJs who have made an effort to stand out from the thousands of entertainers in Arizona.

Freshman electrical engineering major Konrad W., who goes by DJ AmBeat, and sophomore music production major Zack Rubalcava, otherwise known as ShadeZ, are full-time DJs and students. They said the lifestyle of balancing a full-time entertainment job and college has taken them years of practice and thousands of dollars of investment to get where they are now.

The two met in an art and design class at Mountain Pointe High School in Ahwatukee. AmBeat moved from Poland to the U.S. with his family when he was a sophomore in high school. He said adjusting to American culture and learning a new language was tough.

“When I came to school on the first day, I didn’t really speak English that much,” he said. “I had to learn English for about three months so I could function in school. I’m pretty efficient now.”

ShadeZ and his family moved from Italy to California and eventually to Arizona. When the two met in class, ShadeZ reintroduced AmBeat to DJing after he had taken a break from it to adjust to life in America.

Both DJ AmBeat and ShadeZ have had a passion for music since a young age, making their first songs on computers using VirtualDJ, a music editing software.

“First I started off when I was 13 on my laptop DJing, and after one year or more, I got the cheapest controller and started off with that,” AmBeat said.  

Music played a significant role in each of their childhoods and what has kept their desire to perform is their passion for music and meeting new people.

Posted by DJ Ambeat on Tuesday, September 8, 2015

AmBeat attended music school for eight years in Poland and applied his musical knowledge to DJing while ShadeZ has used music as his creative and emotional outlet.

“I really liked the flow of it and I thought it was very influential in my life because it explains a lot,” ShadeZ said. “Music, to me, explains a lot about how I feel because me, myself, I make music and stuff and when I make it. It’s kind of how I feel.”

ShadeZ and AmBeat were introduced to “the scene” by a few of their friends who knew Tempe club owners and haven't looked back.

“Last year, my freshman year and (AmBeat’s) senior year, we met a bunch of friends that graduated, and they knew people in the party scene,” ShadeZ said. “That connection got us into the party scene and I let people know I was a DJ and they tried me out and liked me a lot.”

One of those friends, Dontez Barkley, stuck around and has helped ShadeZ promote his tracks and performances.

“From (when I met ShadeZ) until now, we became good friends,” Barkley said. “I like his style. His transitions are smooth. He knows how to work a crowd and entertain people while remaining humble.”

Today, AmBeat and ShadeZ perform at house parties, organized events and festivals. Their schedule as DJs can often get full during the week, but they said it is not too much to handle.

"How do we keep our Love Alive"❤️

A photo posted by Zack Rubalcava (@shadezmusic) on

ShadeZ said it is common to perform at least four nights a week. School of Rock in Tempe is the venue of choice for most party-goers under 21, and most likely, you'll see either AmBeat or ShadeZ perform there.

AmBeat has a lighter schedule than ShadeZ and said he focuses more on promotion and the business aspect of entertainment while ShadeZ's focus is on production and performing.

Both AmBeat and ShadeZ said that their motivation for making music is not the money, or lack thereof, that they receive for performing, rather seeing people enjoying their music is the greatest reward.

Just like student-athletes, there comes a time when the student must choose to focus more on education or the hobby. AmBeat sees the lifestyle of an entertainer as nothing permanent and treats it as a fun passion project, while ShadeZ said that he plans on pursuing music production as a career. He cannot see himself doing anything else and he is determined to “make it big.”

“I can’t see myself not being a DJ because I started when I was young and I’ve kept that same passion for music,” ShadeZ said. “Even if I turn out to not be successful, I would still do it. I would try to make it no matter how old I am. Even if it’s for free right now it doesn’t matter because money will come. In the long-run, as long as people know who I am and I can bring them to a club, I’ll get booked and get paid.”


Reach the reporter at anicla@asu.edu or follow @AndrewNiclaASU on Twitter

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