DJ Tenza aims for human connection
Local DJ who plays weekly Snowmass disco nights finds common ground through music
Brett Tenza is very much a “people person,” and a people pleaser, too. As DJ Tenza, he spins music just about every week in the winter in Snowmass Base Village, and is always looking for “common ground” and ways to connect with disco-dancing ice skaters who hit the rink on Saturdays to his tunes.
“You want your audience to like you — I do, I’m like that, I want everyone to like me,” he said. “So it’s like this kind of test that is very fun, and just the more you play, the more reaction you’ll get and the more happiness you’ll inspire.”
Tenza, who grew up in Glenwood Springs and played bass and sang as a kid, found his way into the DJ field because he wanted to get into the local live music scene, he said. He saw that “everybody needed a sound guy,” so that’s exactly what he became; it was through that gig that he connected with DJs while setting up their equipment and began asking them how he could get on stage.
It was “off to the races” from there; he’s been DJ Tenza for nearly a decade now. Tenza lives in Silt covering an area that spans from Aspen to Moab, but as a “community guy,” he’s partial to the vibe in Snowmass, where he has played music at a variety of events and recurring happenings for at least three years.
“I really love our culture at Snowmass Base Village and I love our atmosphere. … I really fit in there, and I just think it’s a wonderful place,” he said.
The pandemic’s impacts on live music and performance gave him an added appreciation for the opportunities he’s had in Base Village and others like it.
“Instead of walking through it like, ‘Oh, I’m this cool DJ that just gets all these gigs,’ now I’m walking through it like, ‘These are more like partners and friends and people that I want to help now,’” Tenza said.
“I kind of stopped and looked around: It was like, let’s hold on to what we have here, just make sure everyone feels appreciated and not take anything for granted,” he said.
His approach — very much in line with that “people person” identity — is one of human connection by way of the music he plays.
“It’s finding those commonalities between people using music that we’re familiar with, and then that breaks down doors,” Tenza said.
There are some “go-tos that work at the right time forever,” like ABBA at an ice rink disco night.
“It’s funny how it’s just so appropriate when it’s in the air and people are ice skating and ‘Dancing Queen’ comes on, it’s just like it was meant to be,” he said.
But there isn’t any one song that is always a slam dunk in every setting, he said. Finding the right tune for the right place is akin to an ambitious pilot trying a new trick over the Bermuda Triangle, he said.
“You can play the same songs in a different setting and they’ll do absolutely nothing for you,” Tenza said. “That is kind of the spooky thing, is you really can’t retain and reach for old reliable.”
It’s not always an immediately obvious choice that becomes part of Tenza’s setlist for the Saturday disco nights at the ice rink in Base Village.
Sure, there are classics like ABBA, but skaters might also find themselves grooving to Daft Punk’s “One More Time,” a funky tune Tenza likes to play because it makes him feel like he’s eight years old again, skating along to the song on the hockey rink in Aspen long before he was a DJ getting paid to think about atmosphere.
“It just felt so right — it just locked, like it made an impression on my mind. … It’s funny, the crowd has no idea that’s why I’m playing it, but those are the moments as a DJ that you’re like, there’s more of these magical moments out here and you try to pinpoint them like home runs in a baseball game,” Tenza said.
The “home runs” come not from a pre-set playlist but an always adapting, interactive approach to DJing that takes note of the atmosphere and the energy of the audience (and of requests, too, which Tenza welcomes.)
“It’s just this perfect combination,” he said. “When all the elements are there, it’s electric.”
What: Ice Skating Disco Party with DJ Tenza
When: Saturdays from 3-6 p.m., weather and ice conditions permitting
Where: Ice Skating Rink in Snowmass Base Village
More Information: TheCollectiveSnowmass.com/events/
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