At Michael Pachino’s bar mitzvah party in 1993, the lifelong Pikesville resident brought his friends and family to the warehouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where guests got Cracker Jacks, customized M&Ms and water bottles, and most momentously, watched the Orioles game from left field. The Pachino family held a more traditional party afterward, with guests dancing the “Electric Slide,” a ‘90s staple.
“It was so much fun, so memorable,” Pachino said. “Every once in a while, people still comment on how unique my party was.”
Pachino’s knack for party planning didn’t stop at his bar mitzvah; it catapulted him into his career. In 1995, Pachino, now 42, started the Pikesville-based DJ Mike on the Mic, an entertainment company that continues to serve the Greater Baltimore area 30 years after his bar mitzvah.
“I want to try to add little special touches to make their events as memorable as mine was for me,” Pachino said.
Pachino DJs about 100 events per year, including b’nai mitzvahs, weddings and school dances, with anywhere from 50 to 1,000 guests. The key to a successful event, Pachino said, is to listen to and connect with the client.
There’s a misconception among clients and guests that entertainers just set up their turntables and sound system and pack up when the night is over. Pachino wants to make it clear that he doesn’t just spin records.
“I’ve been their coordinator. I’ve been their therapist. I’ve been a graphic designer,” he said of his clients.
Besides being a people person, Pachino also has to have an encyclopedic memory, learning all of today’s new music, while keeping a bank of the oldies in his repertoire, depending on his client. He has to have the wisdom to decide what to play at what times, with the goal to keep guests on the dance floor for the entire night.
DJs can have a lasting impact on special events, and Pachino knows this firsthand. At his wedding, the DJ played Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” But Pachino and his wife changed the words to “Do you remember the 21st night of November?” to reflect the date of their wedding. The song remains a favorite for the couple.
A member of Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation, Pachino noted what makes Jewish celebrations so unique. Jews are a people who love to gather, eat and schmooze, he said.
“We always love to have a reason to celebrate, and we love to party,” he said.
At the pinnacle of every simcha is an upbeat rendition of the hora and “Hava Nagila” that Pachino found. For more Orthodox clients, he’ll play Israeli pop or hip hop, or klezmer music. Other songs will be summer camp classics that are nostalgic.
DJ Mike on the Mic may have been around since 1995, but Pachino’s DJ days began even earlier. His father was also an entertainer and DJ, and from a young age, Pachino schlepped his father’s equipment to and from gigs. When that got boring, he learned to run the mixer and play the music at parties, until he graduated to DJ.
“I developed an appreciation for music of different genres that span decades, and I learned how to build the crowd’s energy and keep the party going,” he said.
Today, Pachino has two young daughters who love music as much as he does. When he sets up his equipment in the house, they’ll speed up, slow down and scratch records, mini DJs in the making. Pachino isn’t expecting them to take over the family business quite yet.
“The most important thing overall is that they love music at this time,” he said.
But Pachino is looking at the future of DJ Mike On the Mic. Having his own business for nearly 20 years, Pachino has had repeat customers. He’s beginning to DJ the weddings of clients whose b’nai mitzvahs he worked decades prior.
With his business growing every year, Pachino is looking to expand his services to be a “one-stop shop” for clients’ party-planning needs.
“I really see my company growing along with my clients,” he said. “And I’m there for them for any special occasion.”