It is a rare occasion when a U.S. president might give a shout-out to a DJ. But one UCF student that goes simply by DJ Chill Will, received some encouragement from President Bill Clinton during his 2013 commencement address at UCF.
Clinton praised the student for the sustainability efforts he’s implemented into his work. His use of solar-powered musical sets as a DJ has earned him invitations to the Clinton Global Initiative University.
The DJ is a senior environmental studies student from Tampa involved with the student group IDEAS (Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions).
What has your experience at UCF been like so far?
I have had a wonderful experience at UCF. I’ve been yearning for learning. I have had classes where I utilized mind-boggling GIS technology. I have had a class where I went to an outstanding organic farm. Throughout my studies, I’ve been blessed with some inspiring teachers.
Since freshman year I’ve been fortunate to be a part of IDEAS. I led the initiative Bikes Save CO2, and was previously the organization’s president. IDEAS is doing great stuff with research, action, and awareness. Through IDEAS I met some of the most impactful people of my college career, especially during Power Shift 2011, a grassroots effort to promote “green” issues. During this time I also ate a chunk of wasabi the size of a golf ball – in one bite. It was an exciting moment in DJ Chill Will’s history. This October, Power Shift 2013 will take place in Pittsburgh. I will be there alongside other leaders from around the world to fight for our future.
When did you first know that you wanted to become a DJ
My friend, Joe, previously known as DJ Dragonz, was the only DJ I knew. I was his bodyguard at parties and events to make sure no one hassled him or touched his equipment while he was mixing. He had to go get a drink one time and told me that he’d probably be back before the song was over. However, time was running out and the screen was flashing red, (meaning the track was coming to an end) so I put on the headphones and moved sliders, clicked buttons, and twisted knobs the way I saw him do it. Things happened. As he always said, the best transitions are those that aren’t noticeable, and no one noticed mine. Except Joe. He said he heard it from the other side of the venue.
I loved the possibilities of endless music so I kept practicing with him and eventually bought my own setup. Furthermore, I have always loved the ability of smells and the olfactory gland to transport one’s mind to a different place and/or time. I believe that music has the same ability.
What motivated your interest in sustainability?
I’ve always been more of a wild child. I feel very comfortable in nature wherever that may be. I’ve been fortunate enough to go with my family and friends to the Florida Keys almost every summer to free dive and scuba dive. I noticed a large amount of reef depletion, increased coral bleaching, and an increase in pollution – especially from plastics. Similar problems have been occurring in some of Florida’s beautiful freshwater waterways.
I wanted to find a way to fight these problems. One of the easiest ways to do so is to switch our fuel source from dead dinosaurs to the powerful sun. Coal and oil may have helped move society along more than 425 and 150 years ago, respectively, but times have changed. We need to upgrade. To hold onto these sources of energy is to be that stubborn, drunk ‘friend’ who claims that he or she is fine to drive. This dirty energy use is killing people, animals, plants, and the natural world. One of the current ways to move on and “sober up” is by using renewable energy specifically from the sun and wind.
These sources do not require constant digging and destruction. Once solar and wind are installed, the most one has to do is service the panels and turbines every 30 years. And what better place to develop solar than the Sunshine State?
Where did the idea for solar-powered DJ equipment come from?
The idea for solar powered sets came to me after working at my friend Terry’s house. His house was powered entirely by solar and wind power. I DJed a big solar installation and build party there. I was exuberant that I had only played clean-energy music! I felt liberated. There was no coal providing the electricity for the music I just played. After that experience, I wanted all the music I played to be powered by renewable energy. I thought, what better way to accomplish that than to make a portable DJ setup with the sun as its power source.
So I made a portable setup with the help of my friend, Chris Marstaller. We are working on fundraising for bigger solar panels now so that we can play longer gigs and teach more people about this wonderful energy source.
Tell us about your involvement with the Clinton Global Initiative.
To attend the Clinton Global Initiative University is an honor that has been bestowed upon some of my other friends and colleagues. It is a place where student leaders, topic experts and celebrities come together to make innovative and real solutions to current global challenges. Each person makes a commitment and needs to follow and live up to that commitment to be invited back.
My commitment is to solar-powered DJing. I went to Washington University in St. Louis and met some awesome people working toward their goals and a better world. I also got advice from knowledgeable speakers about how to better accomplish my mission. I plan on accomplishing the goals I set and going back to CGIU again this year.
How did it feel to hear about his shout-out to you in his spring commencement address?
It was surprising to have the president mention me…
That day I received numerous text messages saying “Bill just mentioned you!” and “I’m so proud of you!” The “I’m so proud of you…” text actually had nothing to do with the president mentioning me. That was from my mom – she just learned to text. But, these other texts referring to some Bill guy mentioning me perplexed me. I responded back, cautiously: “Bill who?” They answered, “Clinton!” My mom sent me another text, “Eat a healthy lunch!”
When I got home, I did a search to find out what my friends were on about. I found out and was ecstatic.
When you’re not working, what kind of music do you like to listen to?
I love listening to the Beatles, Beach Boys (saw them live – best concert I’ve been to), jazz, reggae, folk music like Jim Croce, and some other mellow types of music when I’m relaxing. When I’m not relaxing I like some rock and some roll, as well as electronic music. Madeon is still one of my favorites to listen to – always upbeat and good vibes and the dude is only 19. He made songs I still love today, when he was just 15.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on expanding my reach even further and giving presentations/music events at schools around the country. I am actively working on acquiring a car that can be powered by used vegetable oil. Then, the plan is to go out and do hands-on demonstrations of solar power across the US. I’ve just started an Indiegogo online fundraiser campaign that is accessible through my website, thedjchillwill.com, and am making a video for it. I want to thank everyone for the help and support, especially my family and friends. I love you all!