Mesa Community College graduate James Gaspar was instrumental in getting MCC's DJ students on the roster for the Mesa Music Festival 2023, an event drawing more than 100,000 people.
When Gaspar, recently hired as an MCC teaching assistant, first heard about the event, he thought MCC students would be a great addition to the festival.
"I submitted our group and got a call back that said 'yes, we would love to have you,'" he said.
Gaspar said the MCC students blew expectations out of the park.
"We killed it. We had two battling DJs, a trumpet blowing fire, firework effects, hip hop dancers and terrific stage lighting," he said. "This is a game changer. We are receiving emails from future students interested in the program."
Gaspar, 43, of Coolidge, is graduating this spring with an Associate in Applied Science degree and a Certificate of Completion in Audio Production Technologies. As an Iraq veteran, he said he spent his early adulthood in Baghdad getting shot at and jumping out of helicopters.
"When I came back, transitioning to real life was hard," he said. "Then I found the DJ class and thought 'this is who I am.' From the first day, I just fell in love with the program."
Gaspar quickly became active in college clubs, loving the student engagement and the entire college experience.
"I want others to have the same amazing memories and learn from those experiences," he said. "Not only getting the chance to learn, but also building bonds with peers. When they graduate, they are often already working."
Today Gaspar works in the industry, performing at nightclubs, corporate events and he recently went on tour with Video Games Live in Salt Lake City. He was also eligible for a Grammy nomination through the professional guild.
"I’m just getting started," he said. "I want to earn a Grammy, finish some compositions and produce my own work. I want to have fun doing what I love, which is music."
Gaspar said the DJ program was what made MCC feel like home, and Professor Ramsey Higgins was amazing.
"It was also such a pleasure to be Ron Marschall’s student," he said. "He’s an amazing mentor and now my boss. I don’t know if I scare him, mostly he just smiles at me."
Gaspar calls MCC a great school, especially now that students can earn bachelor’s degrees in some fields.
"The campus is second to none, in both professors and students, from arts to the performing arts," he said. "There’s so much talent here."