Drop The Beat

As parents, we’re constantly amazed watching our children grow up. They’re constantly making new discoveries and finding talents that reveal themselves through the toddler years and mature as they get older. Sometimes those gifts differ from interests we may have, and on occasion, they are in lock step with things we enjoy.

Three years ago, Raquel Thompson, revealed such a talent to her father, Greg, while helping out at the annual Salt Bowl.

“My dad wanted me to play music while he did other stuff, so I started playing things that people really liked,” she recalls. “He was emceeing while I was playing and looked over at me to say, ‘DJ Raquel. Drop a beat and give me something.’” And just like that, DJ Raquel was born.

A natural lover of music, Raquel, now 13, is an 8th grader at Bryant Middle School. She’s an avid reader and writer, currently working on multiple books because as she puts, “I can’t stay focused on just one thing.”

She also plays percussion in the school band, another talent she shares with her dad, who has had quite the career in music as a founding member of the band 17th Floor and as a touring drummer with musical acts TLC and Usher.

“I’ve also worked as a producer on major labels,” Greg said. “I was focusing on being a mix engineer and working on records at the time in Atlanta.”

Now a marketing and events coordinator with Bryant Parks and Recreation, Thompson says he immediately recognized a unique musical talent in Raquel.

“The first thing I thought was, ‘Oh, my goodness. I can make her a star because I’ve been around, and I’ve seen how it’s done. I could take her to another level,” he said. “When I started trying to push her in that direction, I realized she was more in love with the music than she was in being a big-time DJ. Also, she’s only 13. She has to grow her talents and passions in her time.”

In a short period of time, Raquel has performed for more than 1,000 people at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Little Rock, the Salt Bowl and the Bryant High School prom. She’s also garnered a following that she and her dad hope will grow throughout the state.

“As long as it’s good for Raquel, we’ll go almost anywhere,” Greg said. “We’re trying to avoid some events like weddings, because I don’t think her sound or talent is really geared that way.”

So, you may be wondering, what goes into being a top-notch DJ? Raquel will tell you, it’s much more than just picking great songs.

“You really have to engage with the audience,” she said. “You have to watch them, talk to them and let them know that you’re there to make sure they have a good time.

“That will get the crowd moving with me,” she added. “Sometimes I’m a little nervous with talking because I’m afraid I’m going to mess up. So now I’m pushing myself to get better at that because you have to entertain them if you want to be successful.

Technology has also proven to be a huge boost for Raquel’s craft. Gone are the days of the big turntables, speakers and equipment that Greg remembers being carried around by the truckload.

“You’re able to do so much, and it’s all just at your fingertips,” he said. “You can pull up any song at any time, and there’s access to effects and sounds all right there.

“She took to it so naturally,” Greg added. “I didn’t show her how to match beats, though sometimes I would go in there and mix with her. She’s learned the majority on her own.”

That natural ear, Greg says, originates with his daughter’s genuine love and fascination with all types of music. It’s an obsession he says he’s noticed for years.

“One of the interesting things is when we get in the car, even if it’s just to go around the corner, she’ll have her earphones in, listening to music,” he said. “We’ll take long trips to Illinois, and she’ll be in the back. We won’t hear a peep out of her because she’s so into the music. Sometimes it’s 10 hours straight.”

Raquel plans to DJ upcoming events for Bryant Parks and Recreation, the Boys and Girls Club of Saline County and National Night Out for Saline County. Her goals, though, aren’t focused on landing a job as one of those high-priced DJs keeping crowds up and dancing all night along the Las Vegas strip. Instead, she intends to expand her musical talents and try her hand at the craft her father mastered.

“I want to be producing up-and-coming artists while also being a DJ,” she said. “I’m looking forward to finding new music and getting it out there while still entertaining people. It will help me because a lot of DJs produce their own music.”

It’s quite the plan for someone so young, and if you ask Greg, he’ll tell you he’s onboard—for the most part. What more would you expect from a father, doting on his gifted child?