WHEATLAND – “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything,” said ancient philosopher, Plato.
Ray Charles said, “Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond.”
Platte County has a man who has been faithful in providing music for almost every venue that has called for entertainment. Rain or snow, winter or summer, Justin Herdt is the local musician who owns DJ Magik, a mobile DJ service located in Wheatland but caters to people all around the region.
Whether it’s polka music at Oktoberfest, fifties music at the car cruises, rock music at the demolition derby or pop romance at the daddy/daughter dance, Herdt always comes prepared with a playlist that is sure to please. He also has such a command of his repertoire that he can pull requests within moments and have you dancing to your favorite tunes.
He was born in Torrington and his family relocated to Guernsey where they lived until he was three. He was raised by a single mom who worked hard to keep the family together. Ruth Herdt, Justin’s mother and partner in life decisions and business has a strong bond with her son. She is the president of the VFW Auxiliary and also is responsible for organizing or helping on many of the functions in Wheatland.
When the Herdts moved to Wheatland, Justin attended Libby, West, the old junior high and then on to Wheatland High School where he graduated in 1998.
“I still remember school,” he said. “I would love to be a kid again, but just not today. Back before cell phones. I always tell kids to enjoy their time as a kid because it goes so fast and adulthood comes with many responsibilities that can take time away from enjoying life.”
Being a DJ and bringing back memories of a different time, Herdt, growing up in Wheatland brings back memories from Wheatland. He knows what was popular at the time he was growing up and when he now DJs at venues that he grew up in it provides a special memory for him.
“So, when I do dances in the old junior high, where I used to go to school, and the doors are by chance, unlocked, I’ll ask someone if I can just go and take a walk through it and it brings back memories. My memories are part of the reason I like music. It helps me remember. If I play ‘Love of a Lifetime’ by Firehouse, it reminds me of when we used to walk down to the school when they had a DJ playing music in what is now the wrestling room which used to be the old cafeteria. We’d have lockdowns and a dance and games in the gym. Memories.”
Herdt has been creating his music since 2005. At that time he started in Cheyenne and was using other people’s equipment because he didn’t have his own equipment. He learned step by step that being a DJ wasn’t just playing a song. The technical aspects that have evolved so quickly in the past 20 years have made it a continual learning process for Herdt and he has been a quick study to bring top-notch entertainment to his audiences.
“The hardest part that people don’t understand is I have to follow guidelines and legally, I can’t just play anything,” he said. “I can’t play Spotify, I can’t play YouTube and I can’t play other streaming services.”
It’s not cheap. Herdt has to buy his own music from different pools. One he uses is strictly Latino music. Another service out of Chicago may have some songs other pools don’t provide. In essence, he had to build his own library of music.
“I also have two stores for music videos that I do at street dances and karaoke,” he said. “I could probably download music for karaoke, but technology is changing too fast and I don’t have the time to keep up with it like I used to.”
Some of the music that Herdt uses has overseas copyrights, so he is forced to use some services from Europe for his music which gives him the choice of just the musical background of a song or just the video part. He has to pay on average, about $3 per song which can get quite pricey when you want to build a music library that will cater to as many different crowds as Herdt performs for.
Herdt worked several jobs when he left Wheatland High School and gained some valuable life experience working both in the customer service profession. It was here he was able to read people and know what they wanted out of life. When a musical profession came calling, he was able to match perfectly the correct music with the crowd he was called to entertain.
Herdt actually began his musical career after watching DJs perform when he was visiting Denver.
“I watched these DJs playing music and getting people to dance,” he said. “I wouldn’t say making people dance, but playing the right music for people to dance to, and I decided that I not only wanted to do that, but I felt as if I could do that.”
He also agrees that if he’s playing a venue and doesn’t know the crowd, there are times that his entire play list will have to change, and his choosing what they want as opposed to what he wants makes it not only fun, but successful.
“The one I did in Scotts Bluff a few weekends ago, they loved what I played and they said I did an amazing job,” he said. “They also said that the ones who didn’t dance; there was nothing I could have done to get them on the floor. I think sometimes that COVID put a damper on having a good time like they used to.”
Herdt says that his No. 1 supporter is his mom who was with him every step of the way in his life. He also has the support of a community that knows how talented and selfless he is always going the extra mile in anything he does.
One of the major venues he does each summer is the Platte County Fair and his sound system gives the sound and the music in every venue from the junior show arena to the poultry building, the demolition derby and the kid’s night dance.
Last year, he was so popular and appreciated that he was not only nominated for but won the Spirit of Platte County Award which is given out by the Platte County Chamber of Commerce and is an award for someone that is an integral part of the community and makes it a better place to live.
In addition to being a professional DJ, he is also a cook for PCSD No. 1, he runs photo booths for several events including one that just happened at the library where he took pictures of kids and Santa. You can also see him taking holiday pictures with people and their pets at Bomgaars in Wheatland. You can usually catch him doing Karaoke at the Commodore Bar on most Friday nights or at any event that runs BINGO as a fundraiser.
Herdt has a heart for Wheatland and for giving the gift of music. To return to Plato’s opening quote, he truly does deliver a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. He also knows how to take the crowd back to their memories as they’re busy making a new one.