DJ Sean is Bringing the Beat Back to the Upper Valley

The Upper Valley is known for many things, like its beautiful nature and pretty towns, but having a great party atmosphere probably isn’t one of them. Sean Hay, DJ and entertainer, is here to change that.

A ten-year Quechee resident, Sean Hay (also known as DJ Sean) grew up in Freeport, New York in a Jamaican family. His first connection to the Upper Valley came from his mother, who moved to Lebanon for work, and later moved to Quechee, where he visited her several times. Attracted to Quechee’s quiet and relaxed atmosphere, Hay moved here with his then-girlfriend-now wife and son Jayden. Now, he still lives in Quechee where he and his wife are raising three children together. While Hay’s family initially didn’t know how long they were planning on staying, there were few other DJs and entertainers in the area, which Hay recognized as an opportunity. He decided that the Upper Valley could be a great place to put down roots and launch his DJ and entertainment business, Livemixkings.

Silent disco at night in Lebanon’s Colburn Park.

Livemixkings – spearheaded by Hay but supported by guest DJs and collaborations with other local artists and venues – perform at a variety of events around the Upper Valley, including Dartmouth-College sponsored events, car rodeos, ski events, marriages, silent discos, and more. He often appears to entertain crowds at local venues like Sawtooth Kitchen in Hanover, the Lebanon Opera House, the Hopkins Center, and many other locations throughout the Valley. Despite being an introvert, Hay loves the connections he has made through DJing over the years. “[Being a DJ] allows me to be around people and have a good time. It’s basically like a hangout once you learn all the skills you need.”

Music has always played a big part in Sean Hay’s life. “Everything about music, I love,” Hay remarks. During his childhood, Hay’s uncles often threw parties at his great-aunt’s house. Hay’s great-aunt was the first in their family to migrate from Jamaica to the U.S., where she helped other Jamaicans who also made the journey to America. Eventually, Hay’s great-aunt helped so many people that “Saturday nights just turned into a party,” according to Hay. The constant good vibes and music trickled down to a young Sean Hay, who credits his family for giving him inspiration to pursue a music and entertainment career later in life. His uncles, who hosted those first parties that Hay remembers, were important figures in Hay’s life and also influenced his future relationship with music. “My uncles had these sound systems in their cars, and they would produce this loud bass that you could feel in your chest,” Hay remembers. “I tried to go back and make music like that, [but] could never create it.”

DJ Sean had everyone dancing at a family-friendly silent disco in Lebanon last summer.

Hay developed an interest in the DJ industry at a young age, when he began by experimenting with producing on his clarinet and drum set. “I didn’t know I was being a producer,” he remembers. “I was just recording things that sounded good to me.” Hay recorded snippets of music and brought them to school, where his student peers rapped lyrics to the beats he had come up with. “The cool kids were rapping to my beats, and all of a sudden, I was becoming a cool kid,” Hay says. “And that’s how I knew this is what I want to do.”

In an effort to inspire other young aspiring musical producers and performers, Hay now hosts a “DJ Academy” for teens, where he coaches teenagers in both the technical and entrepreneurial skills required for a successful DJ career. He also teaches a class for adults. Most of these classes take place at the Upper Valley Music Center, but he also holds workshops at other locations in the Upper Valley. Among his students is his 15-year-old son, Jayden. Jayden is doing his own DJing, using the techniques he learned from the DJ Academy to start his own DJing career and assist Hay with his work. Jayden has been the DJ for school dances and even a silent disco held in Lebanon last year. Hay says that nowadays, Jaden often gets requested as a DJ for certain events. “Now people are requesting him and not even me,” Hay reports proudly.

Hay explains that DJing is like inventing a story that complements a playlist of songs for a particular event, which he curates beforehand, leaving some room to improvise and accommodate song requests. “As the event happens, I might veer from the playlist based on the audience,” says Hay. While the songs play, Hay brings in his personal touch, adding “weird but unique” sounds and beats to mix up the pace, feel, and mood of popular songs that everyone knows. “It’s been working,” he says. “When I do a mix, the crowds react well to [them].”

Part of the DJ job is also keeping the party vibe going throughout an event, and Hay describes performing as “being a fun person for four hours.” Energy defines a DJ performance, and Hay says it’s his job to keep the energy up for his guests through both the music and also by keeping the crowd engaged with other techniques, like “shoutouts”, where he calls out special members of the crowd and maintains a fun dialogue between the audience and the DJ/s. However, it’s crucial to balance the excitement of the crowd by increasing the energy in the room gradually. “You can’t come in too hot. You have to bleed into it for certain things, and if you come out too hot on the mic or even start the music too loud, people are going to look at you like you have problems,” jokes Hay.

An often overlooked part of DJing is the promotion that leads up to an event, Hay adds. As a DJ, Hay not only has to perform at events but also needs to advertise them ahead of time through various means, like Facebook or by designing and putting up posters in public. “And this is the thing most people don’t know about DJs,” he says. “We have to be everything. We have to get the word out, do all the behind-the-scenes, and then the party.”

Hay considers his producing to be a vital part of his DJ career as well. “I realized that producing was one thing I needed,” he says. “It definitely separates you from other DJs. If you just play a song that plays on the radio you sound like a radio DJ, but if you play a remix – something you created – it’s something new to everyone’s ears, and it sounds interesting.” In fact, Hay credits his company name, Livemixkings, to his producing within DJing. According to Hay, the name describes exactly what he does as a DJ: “I’m doing a live mix as we’re having [an] event. You’re hearing these beats mesh together that shouldn’t be together.”
Even now, with his DJing job, Hay still sometimes produces and adds new remixes into his DJ performances. “What I’ve been doing is I’ll get a couple of acapella and some instrumentals; I’ll try to mix them together into something that I can add in between songs people know,” he says. “I’ve been blending things not meant for each other and try to make it make sense. That’s the challenge.”

Hay’s Jamaican heritage plays just as significant a role in his life as it does in his career. Jamaica, as for Hay, holds music dear to its heart. Many Jamaicans earn their living through the music industry, says Hay, and events and parties can be the source of income for many different people, from the DJs and event staff to the bartenders and servers. It is also the hustle and grit he sees in people whenever he visits Jamaica – like seeing many of his cousins working multiple jobs at once – that inspires Hay to work hard to achieve his own goals. “Everyone before me had that hustler’s mentality, and so growing up into that, I had that as well,” he says. “Without [my heritage], I don’t know if I could have kept going at it like I did, and my family motivates me to keep on going.”

Bringing his family background from New York and Jamaica with him all the way to Quechee, Hay is here to bring the energy, something that he says the Upper Valley needs. “There was this hole [in the Upper Valley] that needed to be filled out,” Hay says. He sees the potential in the local communities throughout
the Upper Valley, and he notices that they could benefit from some cheer and “party energy” from time to time, and his goal is to bring that fun and energetic atmosphere to others, one party at a time.