Featured DJ: Chicagoland’s Shani Barnett

Shani Barnett

By Stacy Zemon

In the heavily male-dominated DJ industry, one woman’s talent has jettisoned her to the top of the heap. Shani Barnett is not only a highly successful, multi-talented entertainer and choreographer, but she is also a professional role model for females and males alike in our business.

If you attend industry trade shows, then you’ve likely seen and learned from Shani at seminars. At the DJ Expo in Atlantic City she has shared her knowledge on the “All Star MCs” panel, taught interactive dances at the “Games & Dances” seminar, and helped fellow DJs understand the 411 of Mitzvahs. At the Mobile Beat Vegas Show, Shani gave a repeat performance about Mitzvahs. To the delight of her peers, Shani’s been a guest DJ/MC at the opening parties of both shows.

Shani’s Herstory

Shani teaching an interactive dance

While Shani Barnett was working as a dancer/choreographer on tour with a two House Music Artists back in 1995, she spent her down time hanging out with them because of all of the cool music they played. Shani was mesmerized by the effect their music mixing and emceeing had on crowds, and she fell in love with DJing.

In 1998 Shani started dancing for a New York-based multi-op that specialized in audience interaction and participation. The owner trained her on the ins and outs of mixing and programming sets and speaking on the mic. Soon Shani added being a DJ and MC to her entertainment cache.

A few years later she stopped touring, made Chicago her home base, and started Shani Barnett Productions. In addition, to fine-tuning her DJ and MC skills, Shani created choreographed dance routines to use at events. They were so good that she was asked to create routines for music artists, athletes, and nightclubs, as well.

In order to expand her presence in Chicagoland and elsewhere, in 2008, while still running her own company, Shani joined forces with Carey Smolensky Productions (CSP), the parent company of Mobile Music Interactive (MMIE) Entertainment and STORM Interactive Entertainment (SIE).

CSP runs full production corporate events, MMIE focuses on youth event entertainment, and SIE caters to high-end events, providing both DJs and live entertainment, including musicians and singers.

In between performances, Shani choreographs and rehearses dancers in the CSP fold as well as training the DJs and MCs, and handling sales for CSP and its two other divisions. She even has corporate and Mitzvah clients from all over the United States fly her and her crew in to entertain at their events.

“I feel so blessed. In the past few years, we’ve traveled to New York City, Detroit, San Diego, Kansas City, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Los Angles on a regular basis.”

I asked Shani what she considers to be the secret to her success.

“I know how to read and command any type of crowd when I’m on the mic, mixing music, or leading an interactive dance. I’ve honed my ability to motivate those on the dance floor so that everyone feels like a rock star. And I love showing a crowd how a FEMALE DJ/MC can rock it out at any type of event!!!”

Shani advises both newcomers and experienced pros to constantly practice new skills and techniques and to keep adding fresh new ideas to their repertoire. She also recommends keeping in contact with DJs and MCs from other cities and states, and learning from them. When it comes to dealing with clients, she says:

“Practice, learn and listen to your clients. Don’t talk at them, converse with clients when discussing their events.”

It’s obvious to Shani’s peers, clients, and event guests that she loves her work, and she makes sure everyone who works on her team shares the same attitude.

“We get to have fun and party for a living – what a great job, right? My crew and I treat every booking like a once-in-a-lifetime, non-repeatable production. And, we always strive to make every event the best one yet!”

In this writer’s opinion, Shani Barnett is the quintessential entertainer who does it all – Disc Jockey, Master of Ceremonies, Interactive Dancer, and Party Motivator. Few in our industry can boast that they have a fully booked event calendar, but Shani takes professional diversity and success to a whole new level!



  • Stacy Zemon is the Founder, Former Publisher and Former Chief Scribe of ProMobileDJ.com. She is a veteran DJ Entertainer who is widely considered an authority on the DJ business, and has become a distinguished industry leader over the course of her illustrious 30+ year career. Stacy’s mission is to provide educational resources for DJs that support their professional growth and financial prosperity. She is a longtime writer for DJ Times magazine, and author of the world’s best-selling DJ books: The Mobile DJ Handbook, The DJ Sales & Marketing Handbook and The Mobile DJ MBA. Stacy is a self-described serial entrepreneur (Equal parts creativity and business). From her efforts, she has spawned more professional disc jockey business owners than any other person in the mobile DJ industry!

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