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Kate Esquivel: Hitting All the Right Notes

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It is said that music soothes the savage beast, but Kate Esquivel isn’t looking to calm her listeners. As DJ Kate, her throbbing rhythms and towering tunes allow her to create a dance floor that’s enticing and engaging for everyone she is entertaining. She is co-owner of Fernando Productions KC and an in-demand female DJ in the Kansas City metro, a rarity that brings perfect pitch to weddings or other events she emcees. While she is focused on ensuring every event runs effortlessly, Kate’s impressive expertise allows her to rock any party.

“When I first started out here in KC, potential clients were hesitant to book a female DJ and were open about sharing that feedback. It was such a male-dominated role, that I think they felt more comfortable seeing a guy behind the mic. But within the last three to four years, it’s completely changed; I get a lot of love with wedding planners who really support their couples in booking a female DJ as well,” DJ Kate noted.

But make no mistake, the Lenexa, Kansas, resident knows her business. Her full-time gig is as a risk manager for a consulting company in KC, but she DJs 12 to 15 events a year and nearly all are weddings. Her attention to detail, musical background, ability to sustain a crowded and exciting dance floor and impressive customer service hit all the right notes, ensuring couples can simply enjoy the happiness of their big day. She started out making mixes for her friends who competed in fitness shows. Years later when she met her husband, Fernando Esquivel, founder and head DJ of Fernando Productions, Kate saw how those skills could be transferred to weddings. Attending with him, she had fun making suggestions on the music or helping with the timeline. It wasn’t long before he asked her to join the team.

“That was such a big part of me getting into the business. I’d be standing with him at weddings and loving his connection with the crowd,” she remarked. “You’d be hard pressed to find another job like this. It’s great; you can’t beat it.”

Perfecting her Pitch
Music has always been a passion for DJ Kate; however, growing up in Colorado, her musical exposure was scarce, limited to two radio stations. But when she came to Kansas City as a teenager, her ability to absorb many more musical genres exploded. “I have seven siblings in my family, six brothers and a sister, and each of them had their own musical taste. So, believe me, I’ve heard it all,” she noted. “My Spotify playlist is all over the board.”

This broad knowledge of musical genres is put to good use when DJ Kate sits down to talk with a couple and plan the event. They can feel confident that she will spin all the right tunes for their big happening. “Even though I’m a DJ, I help them coordinate and manage the timeline of the event. You want to keep that vibe energetic; you don’t want things to drag out with people waiting two hours to have dinner. The energy goes down when people are waiting,” remarked DJ Kate. “My job is about controlling the speed of the evening and giving people cues when we’re moving onto the next part to keep them engaged. When it comes to the party, it’s the music that gets people moving. It’s about reading the room.”

Creating a Playlist that Works
Certainly, the wedding couple will know their guests and can suggest selections that will strike a chord with their guests. DJ Kate develops a playlist according to those wishes. She inquires about the vibe that the couple wants to set and what they want to accomplish. What’s the style: traditional or more modern? “You pull in what they want to hear, but I always ask if it’s more important that I play the music that they give me or if they want me to keep the dance floor full because they might not match. The couple may want hip hop, but the crowd might be going harder at funk,” she noted. “It’s very much about reading the crowd, and if something doesn’t work, you need to get out of it very quickly. We’re true mixing DJs. It’s blending songs that you’re listening to as another song comes in. We make it fluid to keep the energy and vibe going. It’s all about paying attention.”

DJ Kate notes that about half of the couples she works with use a wedding planner and the rest do not. Even with a wedding planner at the event, she has control of the mic and helps control the evening. It is her responsibility to move things along and keep to the schedule, or important pieces of the event could be missed, such as the photographer getting all of the necessary shots.

Ensuring a Smooth Gathering
Fernando Productions pulls out all the stops for its clients and offers an electronic, state-of-the-art planning system for every event. Couples can log into the system and request music they want to play and build a list of songs they do not want to hear. Couples can create their timeline, enter notes and control the flow of the entire event.

“We utilize a planner system to ensure the timeline for the event is correct. What goes into that outside of the music are details we want to know such as doing a champagne pour for the toasts, so we know that’s ready before we begin,” she said. “When we discuss music, we focus on the style of music. Do they want hip hop? Define that to me. Hip hop to one may mean Usher or old Kanye and Megan Thee Stallion to another. I’ll also need to know if we’ll need to be cognizant of playing clean, radio versions. I’ll also ask them about their ‘do not play list’ and that’s when the comments really start pouring out.”

Weddings can be one of the most moving events for anyone to experience. After more than ten years in the business, DJ Kate has plenty of poignant stories to share. “I’m a fan of surprises, and a few years ago, it was the first time for me to be a part of the private last dance trend,” she shared. “The party is over, the guests leave and then the couple stays behind for one last dance. Just the two of them. The day goes by so incredibly fast for them and that’s a huge moment for them to share.”

All live event managers know there’s no happening that takes place without a snafu or two going on behind the scenes. The key is the ability to assess the situation and develop a plan to address the issue, and DJ Kate has worked through many. However, her favorite tale to tell is how she overcame a near disaster when the electricity went out. “The power went out due to a storm, and it was only 20 minutes into the event,” she recalled. “We hooked up a generator from our warehouse and used the LED lights to shine on the buffet to see the food. For the dance, we ran only the speakers, no lights and they partied all night.”

Hitting the Right Notes
DJ Kate and Fernando have built Fernando Productions KC into one of the stellar DJ services in the community. In one weekend, the business offers a selection of DJs, two full-time roadies and the equipment to power up to nine events. Given their success and longevity, she offers these words of wisdom for other entrepreneurs to help make their business a success.

“You need a supportive person in your corner. You need someone to be supportive of the time commitment and sacrifice that goes into your business,” she commented. “For me, it’s the value of connecting with those in the industry, and then connecting with the couple to make them feel good. If you do a good job, you get referrals. We have not done a bridal show or any marketing in years and our business is solid. That’s due in large part to the friendships and partnerships we’ve made in the years.”

DJ Kate adds that her ability to fit into a typically male-dominated DJ industry comes from much hard work, musical knowledge, experience and a healthy dose of “girl power.” “It’s a cultural movement because socially we’re seeing more woman empowerment. It’s interesting that couples are looking specifically for me and that I have something different to offer. Also, they’re excited to support minorities and women in business,” she revealed. “It doesn’t hurt to have a good relationship with wedding planners because they can be very supportive. They recommend me along with other vendors. That’s a nice bond to have, but of course, the decision is made by the couple.”

Over the years, DJ Kate has performed at over 200 weddings and events, delivering all of the bells and whistles her couples could ever imagine. While those numbers can be a blur in the memories of most people and some DJs, each one has a unique spot in her heart.

“Weddings hold a special place for me, and I do remember every couple I’ve DJed for. I remember the night and think about them going forward,” she said. “In this business, it’s very personal, not just for the couple but for us as DJs. It’s not something that I take lightly.”