With middle schoolers, it's tough to compete with the snack bar.
But DJ Chuck Jackson tried.
Jackson, who has worked as a DJ in and around Cecil County for more than three decades, was providing the music for the first school dance of the year at Rising Sun Middle School last Thursday afternoon. He had a captive audience until a school staffer announced that the snack bar was open.
Then groups of girls lined up at Jackson's table to write their music requests on his clipboard.
"I'm very big on requests and line dances. I play whatever they want to hear," said Jackson.
Except slow songs. For the last two years, no slow music is played during school dances. "They (students) ask for them, but I don't play them. I obey the rules," said Jackson.
He said students, mostly girls, will dance to line dances. "It's easier to hide in a crowd," laughed Jackson.
In his role as the entertainer, Jackson feels an obligation to make the students feel at ease.
"Sixth graders have never been to a dance before," he said.
He stays up to date and current with music. He can instantly download and play anything a student requests. All his music is the "clean" edited versions for school dances. "There's no profanity or suggestive lyrics," he said. "You keep it to the age group."
He said the song "The Wobble" gets everyone moving. "Even the teachers and chaperones dance to that," said Jackson.
Since middle school dances are held in the afternoon, from 3-4:30 p.m., Jackson doesn't bother with his usual lights and other fancier equipment more appropriate for night time gigs. "It's tough to create a night atmosphere during the day," he said.
But his experience and willingness to play requests and keep the crowd moving with line dances, works in his favor.
Although he's been a DJ for a long time, for Jackson it's a second job. He works at R.L Jackson's as a mechanic as his day job. He said his boss is understanding about his "fun job."
"I did high school dances here when I went here," said Jackson.
And yes, the DJ gets the girl, at least in Jackson's world. In 1985, he took a girl to her homecoming dance at Rising Sun High when it was a combined middle/high school. The scheduled disc jockey didn't show up, and Jackson was asked to play instead.
He ended up marrying the girl who was his date that night. "I played her homecoming. We were supposed to be on a date," said Jackson.