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'I Gave Them My All:' Meet The DJ Behind Marjory Stoneman Douglas' Prom Memories

MSD Prom
Courtesy of DJ Ivanco
DJ Ivanco played throwback tracks from the students' elementary days, and new hits like Drake's 'God's Plan.'

Juniors and seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School marked a high school milestone this weekend: Prom.

Everything for the students' night, like the ballroom at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, the flowers and the decorations, were provided by local businesses and Stoneman Douglas alumni for free or at cost. 

Mike Sipes Entertainment was one of the companies that reached out to help. The Pompano Beach business donated music and DJ services to the students to show support.

WLRN sat down with Nelson Ortiz, also known as DJ Ivanco, the day after the event to talk about the night’s balance of dance and reflection.

WLRN: A prom DJ’s job is to provide a soundtrack for memories -- a tough job for any DJ almost three months after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

ORTIZ: This prom honestly was really, really close to me. So I wanted to make sure these kids had the best time of their life.

The vibe you wanted to create was this positive high energy environment. How did you prepare a playlist for something like this?

Basically, all my playlists are very similar when it comes to basic proms and all that kind of stuff because they all start out basically the same. But then throughout the night I try and get my feet wet, you know, to kind of see what is it that they like.

I really wanted to give them a night to remember so I gave them my all - everything super positive, super high energy. I went from beginning to end... I played throwbacks from when they were in elementary school.

Everyone was having a great time and everyone was singing, dancing even while they were having their dinner. They were actually just jumping in their chairs and they were singing along.

I understand the students on the prom committee had prepared a 17-second-long moment of silence. What did you play leading up to that moment, and right after?

As soon as we did the 17 seconds of silence, they actually played a video. And they played, like, a little video basically welcoming everybody to their prom. They were just hungry for like bumping music! I was not expecting that. I was kind of expecting them to like slow down for a little bit and then get hyped up. I just went straight to it - there was one track, Drake's song, God's Plan, and they were having a blast with that one.

I also played The Nights by Avicii, which is basically a song that says live your life to the fullest today.Don't worry about yesterday, don't worry about tomorrow. Live for right now. It's basically like, enjoy yourself.

Were there any moments that stuck out for you, any particular moments of joy?

I'll be honest with you. There was one part, which was right after their final video, a video recapping the lives that were lost. They made a small slideshow of the students and the seniors that unfortunately weren't able to make it [Nicholas Dworet, 17; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsey, 17, and Joaquin Oliver, 17]- and they released some butterflies.

I really was not sure what to play because everyone was just basically heartbroken... but happy at the same time. I don't know. It sounds weird to say it. Right after that though, I got on the microphone and told them:

“I missed my own college graduation to be here with all of you. I hope all of you guys are having as much fun as I am. This has been a true pleasure for me to DJ for all of you!”

How were you feeling during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas prom?

I really couldn't believe I was there. Words can't even describe it. I had a knot in my throat, I got teary-eyed, and I tried my best not to cry.

I was thanking them for allowing me to be in their presence and making their night memorable. It's surreal.

I had goosebumps 95 percent of the time. It was honestly insane. It was the most incredible night I've ever had as a DJ. I'm so happy I was able to provide that happiness for them.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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