Priest by day, DJ by night
Claire Stephens | Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Keough rector Fr. Pete McCormick has talents that can be applied in many places: in the Church, in the dorm, in Campus Ministry – and on the dance floor. McCormick juggles the roles of priest, rector and collar poppin’ disc jockey. Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Mich., he earned his Master’s of Divinity at Notre Dame, spent some time as an assistant rector in Dillon Hall and is currently rector of Keough Hall and Associate Director of Vocations. But to those who love to hit the late-night dancing scene, he’s DJ McSwish.
Claire Stephens: Why DJ McSwish?
Fr. Pete McCormick: The name comes from one of my favorite basketballs, called McCormick Swish. When I was a kid growing up, my dad would always write McCormick on our basketballs so we’d know whose basketball it was. One day I needed positive energy and wrote SWISH under it. My friend Lenny DeLorenzo, [director] at Notre Dame Vision, saw it and said “McSwish,” which was coined as a result. He and I DJed at Legends together last semester: He’s DJ Mad Hatter.
CS: When did you first start to DJ?
FM: It started when I was growing up. My family would play “Name that Tune” a lot, and I would lead because I had the biggest music library. It stated as a joke when a cousin said “You should DJ my wedding.” So the rest is history. I was always waiting for my first chance because I love to do it. I love to know what’s new and current, just to see how music progresses over the years. I’ve always loved it. I’ve DJed probably five weddings in my time as a priest, and I’m open to future possibilities as well. I think it’s really an opportunity to anticipate people’s needs and give people a chance to just have fun. It gives me an opportunity to help others as well.
CS: What events have you done at Notre Dame? What were they like?
FM: Lenny DeLorenzo and I DJed together at the end of Notre Dame Vision. There’s a celebration at the end, and we would DJ that as a way to cap off the summer. So when I received a phone call from the programming coordinator at legends asking if I wanted to DJ, I needed a co-DJ and Lenny was totally on board with it. When you DJ, it’s like “How am going to play music for four hours?” It’s one thing to listen versus being intentional. You have to do it three minutes at a time. It’s a little daunting at first. You have to figure out what’s the group dynamic, what are they going to respond to and am I going to have enough of that music.
CS: What is the most common reaction you get to your hobby?
FM: People just don’t believe it. This coming fall – and I’ve done this in the past – I’ve done the wedding then DJed it later that night. There’s a [Notre Dame] couple I knew while they were here that I’m going to marry in October, and they called up and asked if I’d DJ their wedding. It gives me something to do at the reception. There’s not much to do as a priest, and it allows me to be actively engaged in some level, and I very much enjoy it. I love it.
CS: What kind of music do you play?
FM: That morning I DJed, I was asking folks what music people like, and they gave me some ideas. I went online and mined songs from the past two years, some “Hot 100” stuff that I thought would work. Lenny and I were collaborating on this: what’s the mood of the group, what song do we think is going to work, what do we try to shift into, then we play the song and see what happens. It’s always a bit of a nerve-wracking thing. Are people going to react or walk off the dance floor? You keep people engaged by playing a mixture of songs to keep every person engaged in some level. You can’t play all new stuff. You have to throw some old school stuff people enjoy too. I think of it as a big puzzle, and that’s why I enjoy DJing so much.
CS: What is your favorite kind of music?
FM: Country. I love country music, but I grew up listening to a lot of 90s rap. I have an appreciation for hip hop and top 40 stuff, but my greatest admiration is for country music, by and large. Being aware of music and what people are listening to is a way into their lives. People get passionate about certain things and, if music is one of them, you can enter into conversation into other things going on in their lives. It’s one way of staying current and aware and to have that level of connection with people.
Contact Claire Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org