You and Your DJ:
Down Since Day One
Unlike with other DJ companies, Toast & Jam clients have a dedicated DJ from Day One – the DJ you first meet with is the DJ who deejays your wedding. Your wedding is a big deal - too big a deal to have a relative stranger just walk in and press play on any ol’ playlist, and then struggle with the pronunciations of your wedding party’s names because they were handed the list the morning of your wedding (yikes!). Our clients get a DJ whom they trust and who understands what they want for their wedding. We like getting to know our clients and we think it makes us better at our job (which is to help make your event awesome).
We Are Totally Team Players
We’re not just human iPods – we also work alongside your other vendors to help orchestrate all the critical moments of your big day and stick to your timeline. For example, we would never start toasts when you’re off in the photobooth, or let your photographer miss your first dance. Our DJs collaborate with caterers, photographers and planners to produce a beautifully soundtracked event that keeps people dancing and having a good time.
DJ Mary Nisi
DJ Dena Baron
DJ Eric A.
Fed up with the cheesy antics and shameless self-promotion of typical wedding disc jockeys, Mary Nisi founded Toast and Jam in 2005 based on the idea that brides, grooms and guests should be entertained, not overshadowed. Music-obsessed since childhood, Mary got her start in radio at WLUW in Chicago where she deejayed the Monday morning drive for nearly a decade. She’s deejayed at numerous spots around Chicago including The Whistler, Danny's, Schuba's, The Burlington, Delilah's and Smashing Time, the legendary Saturday night dance party at The Hideout, as well as abroad at All Tomorrow's Parties, the celebrated music festival in Camber Sands, England. She is a founding member of the Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP) and the CHIRP Record Fair & Other Delights, runs the CHIRP Music Quiz and currently hosts "The Noonday Underground" on Mondays from noon to 3pm on CHIRPradio.org. A graduate of DePaul University and a native of Omaha, Nebraska, Mary has been featured on NPR's All Things Considered, Chicago Public Radio, Daily Candy, CS Brides, The Knot, Brides Chicago, Martha Stewart Weddings and TimeOut Chicago. She and her husband John live in Logan Square with two cats and an astounding number of single-purpose kitchen utensils. In 2014, Mary gave birth to the cutest, smiley-est baby in the history of mankind and named him Sebastian. He enjoys winning staring contests, crushing it on the playground and, much to his mother’s chagrin, seemingly loves “The Chicken Dance.” He is likely to someday find the cure for cancer. He has also been to more rock shows than most adults.
Imagine, if you will, a magical place where there are no cover charges. No dress codes. Just a laid back vibe where you can dance your ass off to Aretha Franklin and Britney Spears without even a hint of embarrassment. Dena Baron brought this dream to life when she launched a monthly dance party in her home town of St. Paul, and she has since brought her passion for totally dance-able music to Toast & Jam. Dena kicked off her DJ career co-hosting a radio show The Commute at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she majored in Radio, Television and Film. After DJing 138 weddings, stints on-air at CHIRPradio.org and at favorite watering holes The Burlington, Cole’s, The Whistler, and Rainbo, Dena has reclaimed her weekends and landed full time in T&J HQ. She is taking care of business M-F, in charge of scheduling, client services and lots of other important stuff. In her free time, this Logan Square resident enjoys fantasy football, watching/rewatching Game of Thrones, and talking about Maui.
A South Side native, Shannon studied Gender Studies and Radio Broadcasting at North Central College, where she had a radio show called Femme FM, and later got her Master’s in Library and Information Sciences. As a librarian for nearly a decade, Shannon did her share of shhhhh-ing, but really she loves live, loud music. She plays guitar for the band Strawberry Jacuzzi, who have graced the stages of such legendary Chicago venues as the Metro, Lincoln Hall, and the Empty Bottle (but feel most at home when they're playing Cole's.). Shannon joined Toast & Jam as a DJ in 2012 and in 2017 became our DJ manager, in charge of training new DJs and managing our current roster of T&Jers. She also runs a small local record label called Bernice Records and Tapes.
DJ Alli knows how to bring the party. She spends her free time working as part of CHIRP's Live Event team. This requires Alli to be something of a local music expert so that she can book and curate the best local band showcases in the city. Her other party trick (being an excellent DJ…duh) came from her background in radio: she majored in Radio Communications at Columbia College, and worked in programming for CBS Radio for years. You can currently hear Alli on CHIRP every Tuesday from 3-6pm. When this party queen needs to trade rock & roll for real R&R, she enjoys spending time with her family Irish Setters, Rauri and Owen, working in her backyard garden, and canning apple sauce and borscht with her husband, Will.
DJ Carrie is a modern day explorer. She has a talent for scouring the racks of Chicago's thrift stores with the same dedication and vision as Hernando Desoto, except instead of discovering the Mississippi River, she's likely to find a very fabulous vintage dress or bespoke hat. Like Ferdinand Magellan, she's practically circumnavigated the globe; past trips include Turkey, New Zealand, India and Vietnam. And although she 'd never want to conquer the Aztecs like Cortez, Carrie has conquered dance floors both in Chicago at spots like The Hideout, The Whistler, The Burlington and Rotofugi Gallery and abroad at All Tomorrow's Parties Festivals in the U.K. and even a wedding in Frankfurt, Germany. Carrie may love a voyage as much as Christopher Columbus did, as a Realtor and co-owner of Big Shoulders Realty, she's also a fan of putting down roots and helping people to do the same.
Chris’s parents met at a club in St. Charles, Missouri. His dad played trombone and tuba in a band; his mom is an Elvis purist who would later lead family pilgrimages to Graceland every couple of years, so clearly music is in Chris’s DNA. He started writing songs as a kid and joined his first band in high school. He moved to Chicago to study film and art at Columbia College, and has since become an important contributor to our music community, playing with several bands, pursuing his own songwriting project Judson Claiborne, and most recently working on a podcast opera called The Fruit Stare, named for the foraging habits of orangutans (look it up). During the school year, Chris works as a teaching artist with CPS, helping third- through eighth-graders make theater and performance art about social issues they care about. During the summer months, he’s finding harmony working in his garden in Albany Park.
If you’ve been to Chicago in the past two decades, you've probably seen or heard DJ Dustin somewhere -- be it DJing, hosting a radio show, or peddling records at local fairs and events. Obsessive record collecting as a teenager led him down the path of music journalism (Magnet, Dusted, MTV2, Stop Smiling), then to hosting a radio show and DJing. You can currently hear DJ Dustin at monthly gigs at Coles or the Whistler in Chicago. A veteran of the local record label scene, Dustin spends his days working at the archival reissue label The Numero Group. In 2015, he was nominated for a GRAMMY (Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package) an A2IM Award (Creative Packaging) and won an AIM award (UK) for his work on the Numero release, Cities of Darskcorch. As if all that weren't enough to keep him busy, he also runs/owns two boutique record labels, Addenda and Plustapes. In the few instances when he has free time, Dustin enjoys playing board games and indulges his more nerdy interests by collecting comic books and vintage synthesizers.
DJ Emily was born in California but her family moved about every three years, thanks to her dad's job as an architect. Never able to really sow roots, she learned how to sew clothes instead! A freelance seamstress, Emily has created dresses for bridesmaids and costumes for burlesque performers using vintage fabrics and patterns. She even sewed her own wedding dress! When she's not scouring the city looking for cool fabrics, Emily, a classically trained percussionist, can be found playing drums for various rock bands and theatre ensembles around Chicago. While she cut her teeth on punk and indie rock and cites the Pixies as her all-time favorite band, her latest musical obsession is old girl groups like the Shangri-las, the Fabulettes, and Goldie and the Gingerbreads. A seriously smart cookie, Emily holds a Master's degree in Women's Studies and DJs at CHIRPradio.org.
Eric is kind of a go big or go home kind of dude. When he discovered a love of tiki bars, it wasn’t enough just to drink colorful cocktails from kitschy glassware – he had to visit tiki spots all over the country. When he and his sister first visited a national park, they decided to make it a goal to go to all 59. When he and some buddies decided to enter the Chiditarod, they won two years in a row, beating 160 other teams. Eric came to deejaying in a similar way. When he was charged with making the playlist for a road trip with friends, he sought to make the best playlist ever. And he nailed it. After several more road trips playlists, friends started asking him to deejay their parties and eventually their weddings. When Eric’s not soundtracking his next event or adventure, he’s listening (very intensely) at his day job as a boom operator on TV shows like Shameless, Chicago Fire, and Empire.
Helean is not what the French call, les incompetent…especially when it comes to 80s and 90s cinema and sitcoms. She can carry on entire conversations using only quotes from Kevin McCallister, Clark W. Griswold and Ace Ventura, and she knows all the lyrics to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now” and “Show Me That Smile Again” (the theme songs from Perfect Strangers and Growing Pains, respectively). Given her intense love of broadcast entertainment, it should come as no surprise that Helean works in media planning and strategy during the week and DJs a show on CHIRP on Saturdays (6-9am). But what may surprise you is that Helean’s post-college career trajectory was guided not by a quote from Mama Fratelli, but by one from Deepak Chopra, who said something like: “To get something out of the universe, you have to put something in it.” This advice, although not nearly as on-the-mark as, say, “Why don’t we just put chocolate all over the floor and let Chunk eat his way through?” is what led Helean to volunteer at CHIRP, which later led to deejaying with Toast & Jam.
DJ Jess had one of the awesome-est high school extracurriculars ever: (wait for it)…Strolling Strings, a show choir for violinists in Jess’ hometown of Joplin, Missouri. A super-talented musician, Jess and her fellow Strolling Strings member would walk through parties, in a single-file line, whilst playing old classics and big band hits for a bunch of confused party patrons. Jess has since moved on, both from violin show choir and from Joplin, but music is still her passion. She currently plays in multiple bands in the city and also works as the Program Coordinator for Girls Rock! Chicago, the non-profit that builds socially just community with girls, transgender youth, and gender non-conforming youth through rock music. In her free time, Jess puts her love for music in print…literally. She has screen-printed posters for numerous bands and also for Girls Rock!
Jessi grew up in Phoenix and studied political science nearby at Arizona State. But, despite the high temps, Jessi was never more than lukewarm about Phoenix. It was no surprise, then, that when Jessi came out to the Chicago for Lollapalooza, she instantly got Windy City fever. The Southwest native has found some pretty ingenious ways to adapt to the Midwest’s frigid climate. First, she works in customer service at Metropolis Coffee’s headquarters, where hot java is always on tap. Second, through her radio show on CHIRP and deejaying around town, she’s found the Chicago DJ scene to be quite warm and welcoming, a place where people are supportive, not pretentious. And, of course, there’s her work deejaying weddings for Toast & Jam - always heartwarming!
You'd never guess from her warm and spirited demeanor that DJ Karin was born in Anchorage, Alaska and raised in Minnesota and Wisconsin. This cold-weather child (who actually isn't a huge fan of winter) has the hots for vinyl records, particularly the soul, power pop, punk and new wave tracks she plays on her radio show (Tuesdays from 12-3pm) on CHIRP; she 's also CHIRP's Event Director. Karin studied film and media studies at Chicago's Loyola University, where a research project led her to vegetarianism — ask her to share her soup and thai curry recipes. Karin lives in Humboldt Park and often DJs at The Whistler and Cole's. She was a Spelling Bee Champion and even went to the Wisconsin state championships in 6th grade. Can you spell awesome?
Olympia, Washington-native DJ Katy studied theater and performance at Western Washington University, where she was a member of the improv team the Dead Parrot’s Society. After moving to Chicago, Katy took classes at iO and Second City but eventually found her true artistic calling with a performance art group called Mothergirl, which has performed at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival and for the Chicago Artist Coalition. Katy also gets creative in the kitchen, working as a chef instructor at Cooking Fools in Wicker Park. She lives in Humboldt Park and enjoys eating donuts at Roeser’s Bakery, dancing along to live music at the Empty Bottle, The Hideout and The Owl, and using her collection of nearly 50 copper Jell-O molds to make boozy, gelatinous treats for her friends and loved ones.
DJ Kate cut her DJ teeth spinning records at the Rollerworld Roller Rink in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and she spent more than ten years in radio as a DJ on WIDR in Kalamazoo and WPHS in Detroit. She was the longtime co-host of Kate & Rachel's Old Style Show on WLUW in Chicago. Although Kate has a particular passion for punk, soul, and psych, her depth of knowledge and deep down love of music make her DJ sessions pop. Kate is also an avid pinball enthusiast. She plays in local leagues and tournaments and even has her own collection of machines at home. She’s also one of the founding memebers of the Chicago chapter of Belles and Chimes, a women-only league. On the rare occasion that she isn't DJing or pinballing, she enjoys playing hockey.
DJ Kristin was a competitive Irish Step Dancer for 12 years - she's danced at The St. Patrick's Day parade and at the U.S. Nationals. These days she's traded in her ghillies for a guitar, playing in the wildly popular Chicago band Summer Girlfriends and opening for acts like Twin Sister, Neon Trees, Outer Minds and Black Lips. Kristin's had several radio shows over the years but you may have also heard her doing commercial voice-over work for local radio promos. While Kristin frequently DJs around town at spots such as Cole's and The Whistler her talent for flow is not limited to records - she's also a wiz barista and has been a finalist at the Great Lakes Regional Barista Championship.
DJ Norah is a jack of all creative trades. She deejayed clubs and played keyboard in a band called Headache City before she found her musical calling with Toast & Jam. She once ran a craft fair and later worked at a chic modern furniture store (she has a soft spot for mid-century modern pieces and dreams of someday owning a Saarinen Womb Chair). Her most recent creative passion has been making elaborate costumes for her two kids - she's turned her daughter into David Bowie, Colonel Sanders and Steve Martin from “The Jerk”, among others. Last Halloween, the whole family went as Ghostbusters characters, and this year, Norah will transform her brood into the cast of Golden Girls. Norah’s just as creative with her dancefloor playlists as she is with her costume concepts. So if you happen to need Blanche Devereaux to DJ your wedding, who ya gonna call?
Most people consider the U.S. Virgin Islands a pretty awesome place to vacation. DJ Ruby considers them home. A native of St. Croix, Ruby lived there with her brother and her parents, a folk and calypso duo whom she often accompanied on gigs. Touring with mom and dad, aka Peter & Eileen, taught Ruby some valuable lessons that she carries with her as a DJ today, like how to read crowds and wrap cords. Ruby left the island (in body, but never in spirit!) to attend Suffolk University in Boston and worked as a bike activist in Brooklyn before moving to Chicago, where she nannies and continues to advocate for urban bicyclists. She loves dancing, particularly at The Hideout and at Soul Night at The Empty Bottle and, as a wedding DJ, finds great joy in seeing guests kick off their shoes and get their fancy clothes sweaty on the dancefloor.
DJ Rachel's musical expertise ranges from opera to reggae, but she got a soft spot for the 60s and 70s jams she spins as co-host on Kate & Rachel's Old Style Show, a popular late night program on Chicago's WLUW 88.7FM. She also enjoys spinning her vintage vinyl at places such as The Whistler and Beauty Bar. Rachel earned her Bachelor's of Music Degree in vocal performance, and dawn-lights as a cantor in Chicago and Wilmette. Rachel has been with Toast & Jam for nine seasons and adores her job as a dance-floor connoisseur. Never one to limit herself creatively, Rachel has wrestled for KPOWW (Kalamazoo Precinct of Women's Wrestlers) and helped to choreograph the Miss Kalamazoo County Beauty Pageant. When she is not spending money on records, dancing her pants off, or playing guitar in her band Squish, Rachel enjoys racquetball, chicken-raising, and dessert.
DJ Tabitha loves music. But she doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk. Literally - she played tuba for competitive marching bands in high school and college. Born in Iowa Falls, Iowa, Tabitha taught herself to play piano on an old upright that her mom, who grew up on a farm, had traded a cow for decades earlier (true story!). Tabitha studied Music Education at Illinois State University before transferring to Columbia College, where she received a degree in Music Business. Today she works for the Steans Music Institute at Ravinia and for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She also plays in The Reading Band and loves going to hear music at Grant Park, The Gallery Cabaret and La Villa Italian Restaurant, where every Friday they have a guy who covers pop songs on his accordion (awesome).
Tim’s DJ career origin story is truly sweet – it all started at Sweet Mandy B’s! Tim, an avid record collector (1,500+ and counting!) and music enthusiast who got his first job at a record store at age 17, happened to be working at the beloved Chicago bakery when a co-worker invited him to do a DJ set at The Orbit Room in Avondale. It was love at first spin. From there, Tim started booking his own DJ gigs at bars around town and eventually began deejaying weddings for friends before he joined the Toast & Jam team. A graduate of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Tim works as a buyer for Reckless Records and deejays regularly at Corridor Brewery & Provisions and AliveOne. He lives in Edgewater and enjoys basketball, sandwiches and icing-less molasses cookies from (where else?) Sweet Mandy B’s.
DJ Photos by Jeremy Lawson Photography