By Robin Schwartzkopf
Ron Manila knew he wanted to be a DJ as soon as he put his hands on the turntables at a family pool party in 2010. A few days later, he had his own set, and the beginning of a lifelong passion.
“I’m in love with music and I always have been for as long as I can remember,” Manila says. “I knew then, this is what I want to do.”
Nine years later, Manila is pursuing his dream as the in-game DJ for men’s basketball and football home games at UVA. After a fortuitous gig at the Virginia Track Challenge in April 2017, he applied to DJ football games at Scott Stadium.
“I was told my audition would be three live games, and if I did good with that, I would get a chance with the basketball program as well.”
In fall 2017, Manila started working at football and basketball games, balancing his full-time job in Richmond with his new work at two very different stadiums. After several seasons with both teams, Manila understands the nuances of each and can prepare his sets to serve the specific environment and crowd.
At John Paul Jones Arena, he says, “volume control is key.” The indoor arena is louder and smaller than the football stadium, which changes how he thinks about getting the crowd—and players—pumped up. While he has the freedom to pick whatever songs he wants to play, Manila says he takes into account songs players have requested and perennial crowd favorites. “I work closely with the directors on certain tracks,” Manila says. “But in-game, I pretty much have the flexibility to go with what the crowd will respond to best.”
What hits are the most reliably hype at Virginia games? His answer isn’t surprising—any frequenter of JPJ or Scott Stadium has jumped and danced along to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC and Quiet Riot’s “Cum on Feel the Noize.”
During football games, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” is a Manila go-to with its bold opening and powerful guitar reaching students lounging on the hill and fans in the highest seats. While classic rock appeals to almost everyone, Manila tries to incorporate as many genres as possible in his sets. Game attendees can expect to hear the ubiquitous “Sweet Caroline” plus pop, house, and EDM, all with the twist of Manila’s own style of spinning. Last season, during the fourth quarter of the Miami homecoming game, he decided to test some new tracks. “I introduced a song called ‘Swag Surfin’ by Fast Life Yungstaz, and the whole player and student section went crazy. So now that song is a must-play at all of our football games. I also took a chance and played the ‘Friends’ theme song and surprisingly the student section had a dance to it. So cool!”
Manila isn’t the only one making noise during games—he has to coordinate with the band, announcers, and other programming, all while switching up his beats depending on the flow of the game. With so many elements, communication is key in order to ensure the arena doesn’t become a cacophony of competing sounds.
As the DJ, he channels the energy and flow of the game, following each minute in the action while keeping the crowd engaged and employing his sharp musical intuition. “If the game-winning shot is on the line and the team is coming out of a time out, the band cuts off, and I have 30 seconds to play something to hype up everyone,” Manila explains, adding, “I love it!”
Robin Schwartzkopf is the Arts and Entertainment editor at The Cavalier Daily.