The enigma they call the journey of life holds many roads and paths for its seeking travelers. Some wander, some are lost, some know exactly what road they are on. Keene State College senior Aaron Testa travels many roads. But there’s one road he has made his life’s journey, and he wants to take us with him. It’s not on the ice rink, skates laced up—it’s not the path to senior class president. It’s music. Let Aaron Testa take you on a “musical journey.”

Brian Cantore / Photo Editor: DJ Testa shows his stuff at McCue’s Billiards & Sports Lounge Thursday, Sept. 19. Testa is putting McCue’s on hold throughout hockey season, but is returning to DJ in the spring semester.

Brian Cantore / Photo Editor: DJ Testa shows his stuff at McCue’s Billiards & Sports Lounge Thursday, Sept. 19. Testa is putting McCue’s on hold throughout hockey season, but is returning to DJ in the spring semester.

The journey begins at a middle school dance. “I remember it clear as day,” Testa said, “I was in middle school and it was the first school dance—and the DJ was just awful. I was like, ‘I could do a better job than that!’”

Testa ordered books online and at Barnes and Noble and began studying.  “He would go to bed and I’d walk by his room and see his light on, and there you would see him with his headphones on working on a song or watching videos of other DJs,” Arthur Testa said of his son, “He was always fascinated with that technology side of it.”

Fast forward the journey to the present, and Testa plays DJ to weddings and parties and opened for Sam Adams at KSC nearly a year ago. But his current gig is behind the booth on Thursday night at McCues in downtown Keene. According to owner Thomas Nephew, Thursday night “Club Night” is an event targeted towards the KSC population.

“We came up with it for the college students and it has been very successful,” Nephew said, “One of the reasons our Thursdays are so successful is that we try to use DJs from the college.” This year, Nephew looked to Testa to once again establish the club like feel for the bar.

Nephew and Testa expressed an interest in creating a variety in sound for Thursday night. According to Testa, the set of DJs he and Nephew have put together for this year each bring something different to the table, or dance floor, in this case.

“I think Aarons style is good earlier in the night,” Nephew said, “I think Aaron’s style lends itself to warming people up an getting them into the mood.”

In Testa’s opinion, there are two generations of DJs. He explained, “There are the DJs from the 80s and 90s and even some of the early 2000s but  in the past three or four years there’s been a push of more of a producer,” Testa said.

He explained the role of producer as “a guy who sits in a studio and makes music and then plays it live.” Such artists who fit this bill are Tiesto, David Guetta and Skrillex.

“They sit down and they’re in the studio 10 hours a day making tracks and they play them live. They’ll make a new song and it’s by them and they’re going to remix the song or something and they’ll go out hit the play button and let it do it’s thing.” This, Testa said, is not his style.

“I separate myself from a lot of other DJs in the area,” he said. For Testa, it’s not about producing and hitting “play.” It’s about living in the moment, reading the audience and taking people on a musical journey.

“You just read the crowd,” he said, “There’s a whole psychological thing to it.” Testa explained that because his focus is the crowd and their vibe, he does not prepare a set ahead of time. Yes, he sometimes has maybe 100 songs out of his 20,000 set aside for an event, but rather than hitting play and hoping for the best, he waits to get to know his audience.

Brian Cantore / Photo Editor

Brian Cantore / Photo Editor

“I don’t prepare ahead of time. I have a handful of playlists but I never put anything in order. I never say ‘I’m going to play this song, then I’m going to play this song—I do everything live. I pick songs on the fly and kind of what I feel is in the moment.”

For McCues, Testa said he watches the crowd and the DJs who are on before him to get a feel for what the people are looking for. The only real preparation he does has nothing to do with the music he will play. It has everything to do with the travelers on the journey: his crowd. Things like age and ethnicity, Testa said he takes note.

“All that stuff I really pay attention to whether people think I am doing that or not. I’m actually constantly reading the crowd,” he continued, “A big thing a lot of guys don’t do these days is actually make eye contact with people. Look up, see and be aware of your surroundings—what’s really happening?”

Sam Diamond, a childhood best friend of Testa’s and recent transfer to KSC said Testa’s style of DJing is a “special” and “dying” breed in the world of music. Diamond spent the last three years in the music production world working with Night Ride Visuals, creating visuals for shows and working with artists like Tiesto, Major Lazor and events like BarstoolBlackout and larger EDM festivals.

Spending time on stage next to some of the biggest DJs in the world inspired Diamond to get behind the booth himself.

“I was always right next to the DJs—it was something that interested me I just had to try it,” he said. “I got into it, it’s more of a side thing for me because I was successful doing the VJ [visuals] thing, so now I just kind of do it for fun.”

Diamond’s buddy Testa threw him into the line up at McCues where Diamond said the small space creates an intimacy between the DJ and the crowd that he has come to appreciate after working crowds of thousands.

“McCues is awesome, it’s a small crowd, the place gets packed. That’s a real intimate show—you’re ground level with the people. I think for the set up there, it’s pretty crazy for something that small,” he said.

Diamond credited Testa for his move to KSC and complimented his friend’s style. Diamond said, “He is super unique. He’s old school, he’s an actual DJ. Testa will throw in anything, he does a lot of old school music, he’s kind of a dying breed of true DJs.” Diamond named Testa a “mash-up” artist and said the live work that Testa has dedicated his DJ style to is “difficult.”

“He’s excellent at that. I haven’t seen another person who does it like him in a while. It’s kind of dying out unfortunately.”

Arthur Testa, a longtime musician, predominantly a drummer, said he never pushed his son into playing an instrument, and today finds himself admiring the journey Aaron is on.

“I think I admire him because he almost has a second persona,” Arthur said, “I know when he gets on stage and starts performing he develops that—he comes out of his shell. I’m always in amazement of him that he can do that.”

Testa said everyday he spends on the journey he works harder than the last. Recalling the middle school DJ, Testa said, “I didn’t want to be that guy who was just average.  No one wants to be a bad entertainer. You strive to be the best. Better than last time. That’s what always pushed me to be on the other side.”

“On the other side,” or behind the booth, Testa said, is an “incredible feeling.”

“To be able to kind of tell a story with music, through music and express your personality—you’re performing,” he said, “It’s incredible. I consider it a performance just as a dancer would on stage. Those pressure positions where you get to show your stuff and spread your entertainment, your values to other people—it’s pretty awesome. The way to put it is the crowd is at your fingertips and you are taking them on a musical journey.”

The invitation is out, the path is ahead, let the journey begin.


Julie Conlon can be contacted at

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