This story was adapted from one that originally ran on Greenwich Moms.
This week’s Meet a Mom is DJ April Larken. After a successful career in the bridal industry (including stints spent working at Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera), and time spent as a stay-at-home-mom, April turned her focus to her love of music, and enrolled at Scratch Academy in NYC. Just a few short years later, her client list includes Porsche, Conde Nast, Dylan Lauren and Saks Fifth Avenue.
She’s also opened for stars like Flo Rida, Lauryn Hill and Gavin DeGraw, and at this year’s Under the Stars event on May 17 will support Greenwich Hospital on a lineup that includes 98 Degrees. Then on June 1, she’ll open for Kesha at the Greenwich International Film Festival. Here’s a little bit more about April and her completely unique and totally fabulous career.
Can you please describe your family?
I’m American, my husband Jonathan is British, and our two kids have dual citizenship. Ella is 12 and Jasper is 7. We also have a cocker spaniel named Nigel.
How would you describe your job to those who don’t know you?
I’m a DJ with a fashion background so I guess I’m a “stylish DJ”; my comfort zone is spinning at fashion and luxury brand corporate events in NYC, but I also DJ at galas and private parties for the glamorous and fabulous of Greenwich.
When did you launch your DJ career?
I took a giant leap of faith and started my DJ career 2.5 years ago. I completely changed my life and reinvented myself at 41 and never looked back!
So great! What inspired you?
Being a DJ was something I dreamt of doing since I was a teenager. I was always completely obsessed with music (I still am!) but it was something I never actually imagined I could do. I went to NYU and FIT and then lived in NYC after college. I spent a lot of time dancing in nightclubs in my 20s & 30s, the DJs were my friends then but none of them were women, so I never imagined myself behind the turntables. About 5 years ago I met a female DJ in the city that had a similar story to mine—she was a mom who became a DJ in her 40s as a second career and was living her dream.
How did you get started?
When I turned 40, something shifted inside of me that made me want to start stepping outside of my comfort zone more—that whole “life is too short to have dreams and not pursue them” mentality really kicked in. I loved every minute of being a stay at home mom for my kids, but they were now in school all day and I was feeling misplaced. I would go to cocktail parties and found myself talking only about my kid’s and husband’s lives and realized that I had more to offer than that. I think as moms we can easily fall into a routine of taking care of everyone but ourselves, but as a mom to a girl, I needed to show her that we as women can wear many hats and being a mom is only one of them. I knew I needed to reinvent myself because going back into the bridal business wasn’t an option, but being Ella and Jasper’s mom wasn’t all I was meant to do. As soon as Jasper started kindergarten full time, I enrolled in Scratch Academy, a DJ school in NYC started by Run DMC’s Grand Master Jay. It was important to me that I was going to be a “real DJ” not just a housewife with a hobby, so I trained with some of the best DJs in NYC. I wanted to learn how to mix and scratch on turntables, I put in the hours, I took it seriously and I worked hard at my craft. Not unlike learning a new language in your 40s, it was challenging. All the technical stuff was tricky to grasp at first, but the music always came easily for me, my lifetime obsession with music finally came in handy and it suddenly became who I was always meant to be.
What was the initial response from your friends/Greenwich community?
Incredible! My friend Stephanie Ashley from Greenwich Hospital Foundation gave me my first gig, even before I finished DJ school. I really needed a push because I had no self-confidence back then and she said, “you’re working next month, so be ready” and I didn’t have a choice but to jump head first right into my new career. Then another good friend, Wendy Stapleton, asked me to open for Flo Rida at the Greenwich International Film Festival in 2017, and my whole life changed. Greenwich has given me more opportunities than I ever could have imagined. I couldn’t be more grateful for this community’s support.
Love it! How else has this community helped you launch this second career?
I credit all of my success to the support of my Greenwich mom friends! They gave me my first gigs on blind faith, they trusted me with their biggest events without even hearing me spin and recommended me to people that changed my life. It all happened so fast because women believed in me and wanted to see me succeed. When women rise up other women, the sky is the limit to their success and I’m definitely a female driven success story.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your industry?
Being a female working in a traditionally male role can have its drawbacks (as well as its advantages). Women are still only 10% of the DJ community. We sometimes have to work harder to be taken seriously, negotiate harder for our terms and occasionally have to deal with predetermined sexist standards. But I don’t think that’s’ specific to my job—that’s something women have to deal with at work every day, everywhere. So I use those challenges to push me to work harder.
What nonprofits are you involved with in Greenwich?
I’ve chaired events for the Boys and Girls Club, the Jr League of Greenwich, The Greenwich Historical Society and Greenwich Hospital. I also work on events for The Greenwich Arts Council and the Bruce Museum’s Art of Design. I joined the UTS committee for Under the Stars the first year I lived in Greenwich because my mom delivered babies for 30 years and I felt a comfortable connection with the cause. I co-chaired the event in 2015 and have DJ’d it for the last 2. I will always support the women and children’s health charities for Greenwich Hospital;, it’s a cause we can all get behind as moms in this town. This year I’ll be closing the party, doing a DJ set after 98 Degrees brings down the house!
For visitors to Greenwich, approximately 45 minutes from NYC, what are your fave places too…
Eat with kids — We love The Granola Bar for healthy bowls and Meli Melo for crepes.
Grab a drink with friends — I go out dancing with my friends! Locally, Le Fat Poodle’s “Le Boom” black-out brunch is our favorite!
Have date night — When we’re feeling casual, Bar Taco, and when we’re feeling fancy, Rebecca’s .
Spend time together as a family — Tod’s Point is the best; we’re so lucky to live near the water.
Shop for yourself/shop for your kids — I’ll always be a glamour girl (you can take the girl out of the bridal business…) so I love to shop couture at Saks 5th Avenue on the Ave but I’m a sucker for a bargain, so Saks OFF 5th Outlet at the Stamford mall is my happy place!
I’m a working mom, so I online shop for my kids…Amazon prime is my life!
Spa/salon — Beth for color and Rabih for cut, both at Maison D’Alexandre. When I work, Raymond for makeup @ Paulo Lanfredi Salon and Nancy for extensions & style @ Salon Mimoza (all in Greenwich!)
Grab coffee – I’m a tea drinker and I love the Drawing Room in Cos Cob.
Anything else you love about Greenwich that not everyone might know about? – Greenwich has great concerts! Between Serendipity’s Greenwich Wine & Food Festival concerts, Under the Stars and The Greenwich Town Party – I’ve seen Eric Clapton, Train, Tim McGraw, Paul Simon, Dave Matthews, James Taylor and many more over the years. Greenwich rocks!
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