12-year-old DJ grows fan base while working toward her dreams

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's possible to spend a lifetime searching for a career for which you're meant. Maddy Rose Johnston discovered hers at age 10.

"My mom had a friend who was a DJ, and that's what got me interested in it," the 7th grader told ABC13. "My first gig was my birthday party."

To make it more than a hobby required some outside help, in the form of Senega Iles, of Premier Sound and Lighting.

"Her mom and I go to the same gym," Iles said. "She always talked to me about Maddy and how she loves music. So I said 'Let's try to have her DJ.' And she stuck with it. She really enjoyed making what we call these amazing stories in DJ'ing. She didn't give up, and kept trying to make it happen. " Iles is now her manager and agent.

Now, DJ Maddy Rose is on the event circuit in some of the toniest spots in Houston, spinning music at charity events, and parties hosted by the wives of Houston athletes.

At first, Iles said he'd get calls to DJ himself. "I'd tell them I got the perfect DJ for you. She's 12 years old. They thought it was a gimmick, but I'd tell them this little girl is as good as me, if not better. And once they see her, the cameras can't stop, and it gives so much publicity to these events."

Her favorite genres are pop and hip hop, and Lizzo is one of her favorite artists.

The art of DJ'ing is blending songs that flow into each other on the soundboard she manipulates above the crowd. "You start off with something kind of chill, and then you go to more exciting music, and then you might go back to the more relaxing music," she said.

She picks the music, and listens to the lyrics before she uses it. "I use the cleaner versions."

Iles said that includes no references to drugs or violence, or lyrics that are demeaning to women.

Maddy focuses on events that are attached to a cause. One of them included a fundraiser for The Sunshine Kids.

"I just feel that since I'm a girl, then it's good to support my people and this just feels good to make people feel good about themselves and women. I like to support them," she said.

She continues to hone her skills, and has teachers tutoring her on the art of scratch on several turntables at a time. "If she's as good as this at 12, and at the level she is, the upside is that by the time she's 15 or 16, she'll be even more amazing, " Iles said.

The rest of her life revolves around her parents, her sisters, and her homework. If her grades should decline, her DJ career would pay the price. That hasn't happened.

The payoff is more than money. For Maddy, it's about what she gets and gives in return. "If I'm happy with what I'm doing, then I should be happy with it. But if other people are happy too, then it makes me more happy," she said.

Iles is now working on creating a YouTube Channel featuring DJ Maddy Rose.
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