LITHIA — The 12-year-old rockin’ the braces behind the mixers and controllers isn’t quite ready to hit the club scene in Ybor City, but DJ Jake Dela Cruz has been cranking the tunes in FishHawk Ranch for a couple of years now, building his fan base.
He’s taking his talents to a larger venue Aug. 31 when he’ll DJ for the “100 Food Truck Festival,” at the Florida State Fairgrounds — a day of food and fun expected to break a record for the number of food trucks in one place.
He’ll bring his love of progressive house, electro house and deep house music, as well as his Top 40 mixes to his biggest gig, yet. But without the nerves one might expect.
DJing runs in Jake’s family. The Randall middle schooler’s dad, Jon, was a DJ in his teens and 20s and when Jake found out, it piqued his interest. “Suddenly, one day, I just decided I wanted to do it,” he said. “I was nine, then.”
And he does it with confidence.
He puts on his head phones, twists a few knobs and presses a few buttons and the upstairs studio at his house transforms into a dance venue. It’s tough not to feel the beat as he rocks and dances to the tracks.
“He just loves music,” his dad said. “He’s always singing and listening to music. We had him in sports and martial arts, but it always came back to him bugging me, for over a year, about wanting to be a DJ.”
Eventually, Jakes’s dad gave in and purchased a start-up kit for his son, which he used to learn to mix music. “As soon as he tried it, I could see he was a natural,” Jon Dela Cruz said. “Little by little, he started progressing ...” And buying his own equipment.
While many of DJ Jake’s gigs are charitable events — he has mixed for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and has done events to help fight multiple sclerosis — he has also made enough money to buy himself some upgraded equipment and a Mac Book Pro.
He likes the money, but it’s more about being a better person, he said. He does the charity gigs as a way to honor his grandmother, Conchita Dela Cruz, who died of pancreatic cancer.
“He has even done gigs to raise money for two different orphanages and has one coming up for the Children’s Cancer Center in Tampa,” his mother, Arlene Dela Cruz said. Jake and his dad organized a neighborhood charitable event, gathering families in FishHawk Ranch to come together and dance to the Harlem Shake for a You Tube video. They raised $900, which was split between A Big World orphanage in Vietnam and A Kid’s Place group foster home in Brandon.
“Hopefully, we are teaching him to be a business person and a good human being all at the same time,” said Jon Dela Cruz, who also serves as Jake’s driver, booking agent and roadie. And his 10-year-old son, Joseph, is getting interested in the DJ thing, as well.
“We will continue to support him, as long as he keeps his good grades,” Jon Dela Cruz said. And for now, Jake is an honor student.
“I probably want to be a record producer when I grow up,” Jake said. “But just in case, I have to go to college, too.”