Make us your home page
Instagram

At 12, DJ Jake is already spinning tunes like idol Calvin Harris

Jake Dela Cruz unwrapped his favorite Christmas present in 2011, and it transformed his life.

Jon and Arlene Dela Cruz gave their son a DJ mixer after Jake overheard family members talking about the days when Jon worked as a DJ in high school and college.

"He said, 'Dad, I'd like to learn,' " Jon recalls.

A month later, Jake, then 10, officially earned the DJ moniker when he played his first gig for the FishHawk Hash House Harriers running club at a post-race party. DJ Jake spun his tunes with enough up-tempo authority that he was asked back multiple times.

"He was a natural at it," Jon said. "He knows when to put the music in and take it out. He reads the crowd. If it's dying down, he changes the music. He's ready to DJ at any club."

Now the 12-year-old seventh-grader at Randall Middle School moonlights as DJ Jake. He has played in front of 1,500 peers at a school pep rally and large crowds at multiple Lithia events, including the 2012 Park Square Pizza New Year's Eve bash.

On Saturday, Jake will be a featured guest at the World's Largest Food Truck Rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds. For Jake, who won't become a teenager until next May, this is the latest step toward becoming a music producer by cueing up top 40 songs and amplifying crowds as he booms electro house and progressive house beats.

"I like seeing people dance," Jake said. "I do a mix that I already did, or I usually wing it."

Jake wants people to take him seriously, like his favorite professional DJs, Calvin Harris, who according to Forbes was the highest-paid DJ of 2013, grossing an estimated $46 million, and Swedish DJ Avicii. To him, it's more than a hobby, like his participation at Sidekicks Family Martial Arts. By definition, Jake already is a professional DJ.

"Jake keeps 100 percent of the money he makes," said Jon, who acts as his manager when he's not working as vice president of sales for Tampa's Tudi Mechanical Systems. "All I do is book his events, drive him and set up."

Jon goes out of his way to ensure that Jake works in accordance with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Child Labor Program. Jake works a maximum of four hours on Friday or Saturday nights and is finished by 11:30 p.m. For each occasion, Jon obtains a permit to hire from the state.

The list of Jake's clients is more than 20 organizations long, with more than half of them inviting him back for repeat appearances. Verizon Fios, the Girls Scouts of America, Park Square Cellar and the Glazer Children's Museum have hired Jake. He used to be the resident DJ at the Upstairs bar in FishHawk and now can be found the first Sunday of every month at the Tampa Kids Market in Hyde Park Village.

He is booked through October, including the Chick-fil-A fall stampede Sept. 28 at Curtis Hixon Park that benefits the Children's Cancer Society and the third annual Halloween Spree Oct. 31 at the Glazer Children's Museum.

"I first heard Jake's music when his DJ booth was located next to the Glazer Children's Museum's activity area at the Tampa Bay Kids Market," said M.J. Craig, marketing and communications manager at the Glazer Children's Museum. "I was less than enthusiastic about having to stand next to the loud speakers for six hours but found myself dancing along to Jake's mixes with the children all day long. Even my untrained ears could recognize that Jake's talent spans far beyond his years."

While Jake said he enjoys making money, so he can purchase upgraded equipment, he carves out time in his schedule for charity events. He has a special place in his book for cancer fundraising and awareness after seeing his grandmother Conchita Dela Cruz die of pancreatic cancer in January 2009 when he was just 7.

He canceled a scheduled paid event in Tampa last year to donate his time to the FishHawk Relay for Life. Why?

"Because I'm helping people," Jake said, adding that he's pretty sure his grandmother would approve.

DJ Jake helped the FishHawk chapter of Relay for Life raise more than $155,000 this year, which placed the organization 16th overall in the state, according to Mary Kathryn Kennedy, team development chairwoman. He already is booked for next year's event as well, April 5-6 at Newsome High School.

"He was there for hours and he did an incredible job," said Kennedy, a cancer survivor who also hired him for a personal house party. "The fact that he comes to the event with love and leads with his heart is amazing. He is so professional."

In May, the FishHawk community rallied around Jake to do the "Harlem Shake" and benefit children through the Big Big World Project and A Kid's Place Brandon. At 12, Jake realizes there are less fortunate children than he and his 10-year-old brother, Joey, are. He is acutely aware of how people react to him as a DJ, and during his full-time "job" as a middle school student.

Eric Wood was Jake's sixth-grade language arts teacher last year at Randall. Wood now teaches math at Pierce Middle School in Tampa but plans to attend the truck rally to support his former student. He said Jake was an A student who began the year worried his peers didn't like him because he was so mature.

"I told him to just be Jake," Wood said. "Jake is a little different, he is focused. Jake knows what he wants to do in life, and most sixth-graders don't. In a few years he will have 50 people behind him wanting to do what he does."

Eric Vician can be reached at ericvician@yahoo.com.

If you go

What: World's Largest Food Truck Rally

When: Saturday

Where: Parade starts at Encore (immediately north of downtown Tampa near Cass Street and Nebraska Avenue) at 8:45 a.m. Trucks then caravan to the Florida State Fairgrounds for the festival from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Admission: Free. Parking is $6.

About: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will ring the official dinner bell at Encore to kick off the parade and rally. DJ Jake Dela Cruz will mix tunes all day inside the Waterfront Café. More than 15 bands are scheduled to perform. Jumpy King is providing bounce houses, miniature golf and more. Call (813) 562-9599.

At 12, DJ Jake is already spinning tunes like idol Calvin Harris 08/28/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 4:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of …

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  2. What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

    Selfie of Divya Kumar and Anand Kumar at Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert.
  3. Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador

    Blogs

    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]