DJ Chris Kopec to host virtual Hokie Summer Dance Party
DJ Chris Kopec has hosted millions during the past year, yet doesn’t really feel he has fans.
“People would say, oh you have a ton of fans, and I’m like, I don’t know. They kind of feel more like family right now,” said the 2000 Virginia Tech graduate. “They’re getting music and entertainment, but they’re giving back, whether it’s monetary or words of encouragement. They are helping us, we are helping them, and then there are the charities we were both helping.
“And that’s what family does, they help each other when they’re in need,” he said.
Since March 2020, Kopec’s virtual dance parties have been viewed by millions of people around the globe and served as the catalyst for raising more the $2 million in funds and resources for charities and public servants. His positive spirit and philanthropy have not only increased his following, known as the DJ Kopec Fam, but have also gained national-level attention, including an interview with Today Show co-host and fellow Hokie, Hoda Kotb.
“We literally were on national TV doing Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi,” Kopec said. “It was like wow, this is so cool … And that was how we started the interview and it was my favorite interview with any media or news person.”
Kopec plans to harness that same Hokie spirit when he performs for Virginia Tech on May 21. The Hokie Summer Dance Party is a virtual, family-friendly event set to begin at 7 p.m. The party is free, but includes options to give to specific university efforts upon registration.
“Chris Kopec is such a great example of what it really means to be a Hokie,” said John Torget, Virginia Tech’s associate vice president for engagement. “During what was an extremely challenging time for so many people, he embraced the spirit of Ut Prosim and went to work using his gifts to make the world better for others. We are excited to celebrate the start of summer with him engaging Hokies everywhere.”
Giving back to his community and serving others is actually part of what drew Kopec to Blacksburg.
“You know, Ut Prosim, that was really the way I was brought up. I think that’s part of why I loved Virginia Tech so much while I was there,” Kopec said. “For a while, I wasn’t even going to go to college, but once I got there, I fell in love with the school. Virginia Tech changed my life.”
While at Tech, Kopec was a member of the Hokies track and field and cross country teams and the Blacksburg Volunteer Fire Department. Having begun DJing in middle school, he continued in Blacksburg and expanded his work even further once he moved back to Maryland after graduating. He currently lives just southwest of Baltimore with his wife, April, and their children, Logan, Maddie, and Declan.
During the earliest days of the pandemic, and with his in-person DJ gigs shuttering, Kopec said he decided to use his DJ skills to cheer everyone up.
“We were pretty stressed out as a family that first week when the kids were out of school, so I decided to fire up the DJ gear and head down to the basement for a dance party,” Kopec said. “I jumped on my personal Facebook page, figured we would have 50, maybe 100 people max join us … we had over 20,000 in two hours.”
By the next morning the viral event had drawn more than 1 million views on Facebook and resulted in Kopec receiving thousands of messages. More than a year later, he still clearly remembers one of the first messages he received from a nurse working in a COVID unity of a St. Louis, Missouri, hospital.
“I stumbled across your Live Facebook feed tonight, and I just want to say thank you for lifting my spirits,” she wrote. “I shared your Facebook Live broadcast tonight on our unit’s group page. It was great to be normal and happy even for a little bit. Hope you will do it again because it matters to us.”
During the next several months, the nurse’s note would become one of thousands of online messages, handwritten letters, and videos from the “Fam” thanking Kopec for his efforts.
“Reading those was like adding fuel to the tank to keep this mission going,” said Kopec. “I take all of those notes and put them in a binder.”
It was during that first dance party that Kopec also noticed the potential to use the virtual jam sessions as fundraisers. The online tip jar overflowed with donations, and he immediately decided to pay it forward by providing meals for first responders that week. In that same spirit, part of the millions of dollars’ worth of resources he’s raised has gone to benefit firefighters, 9-1-1 center operators, and law enforcement members in Howard County, the area where Kopec lives.
As a sign of gratitude, such agencies began sending patches to Kopec’s son, Logan, including one very special patch sent by a United States Air Force Colonel.
“He received what we think is one of the first Space Force patches in the country,” Kopec said.
Such outpourings of gratitude, as well as getting the occasional “thank you” when recognized in public, is something Kopec has had to adjust to. And as his in-person dance parties begin to resume — such as performing at each Baltimore Ravens’ home game this season — he said he’s still adjusting to what exactly the future of his DJing will look like.
“We have to find a balance between the in-person and virtual stuff where we can keep connected and keep the fam growing,” Kopec said.
For the more immediate future, Kopec said he’s very excited for his “fam” and Hokie Nation to finally officially meet on the virtual dance floor.
“Tech’s meant so much to me and my life, to be able to bring it back to the university, entertain some folks, and bring Hokies together will be such a highlight,” Kopec said.
— Written by Travis Williams