In the hallowed halls of Samford University, the last thing any visitor would expect to stumble upon is a recording studio. But, tucked away in an office in Divinity North, Professor Daniel Haun has created a small haven of creativity with acoustic foam tacked in between vinyl records on the wall and scattered audio equipment on the desks. Inside, visitors will also find condenser microphones and a sound mixing board. After all, what do you expect from the office of Samford’s only DJing professor?
Professor Haun began his DJ career in 2011 while he was a photography student at the University of Kentucky.
At the time, the University of Kentucky’s College of Design would host an annual charity gala called the Beaux-Arts Ball, a tradition for architecture students originating in the early 1900s. That year, Haun’s friend was a part of organizing the event and desperately needed a DJ for the fashion runway portion, so he reached out to Haun to help.
“They needed a DJ, so (my friend) was like ‘hey, Dan, can you DJ this runway show for this Lexington Fashion Collaborative?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah! I’ve never DJed before, but I’ll do it,’” Haun said. “So I kind of taught myself how to DJ in a week.”
The Lexington Fashion Collaborative liked Haun’s work during the Beaux-Arts Ball and began offering him more opportunities to DJ. This began Haun’s love for DJing, which he claims helped him explore a new realm of audio production.
“It was just really great,” Haun said. “I was studying photography, but it was nice to have this other creative outlet.”
Haun continued to DJ through the rest of his time at the University of Kentucky and carried it with him as he pursued his masters of fine art at the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina. Haun took a hiatus from DJing when he began teaching Journalism and Mass Communications at Samford University in 2019. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that Haun picked it back up as a way to connect with his students while teaching remotely.
When in-person instruction was halted during March 2020, Haun began DJing on Twitch and Instagram Live for the students in his advertising class, most of whom were second semester seniors. He would let the students know ahead of time and they would tune in, request songs, and catch up with each other in the chat.
Haun explained that his DJing sessions served as an opportunity for the class to stay connected despite the physical distance separating them and reminded him of his love for his former hobby.
“It was kind of a nice way for everyone to get together in something that wasn’t a Zoom call,” Haun said. “And that was really fun! That really ignited some energy and excitement towards DJing.”
One of the students in that class went on to graduate from Samford and began promoting events for Zydeco, a concert venue and bar in Birmingham. And when the time came to select a DJ to open for the rapper, Riff Raff, he knew exactly the professor to call.
“I found myself at Zydeco, many years removed from when I used to DJ for fashion collaborations and runway shows,” Haun said. “It was a lot of fun. It was the first time that I had done something like that in a while, so it was a little nerve wracking, but it was a lot of fun.”
Haun encouraged his students to pursue their passions at every opportunity, and said he had started to feel that he was being hypocritical because he wasn’t doing the same. DJing provided Haun with the renewed inspiration to continue to encourage his students.
“I feel a lot more enthusiasm and joy from pursuing those passions that can then infiltrate into the classroom, or into advising, or other things that I do,” Haun said. “It’s important that the classroom is a place full of inspiration where they inspire me, I inspire them; it becomes this cyclical inspiration.”
Haun’s genuine desire to help and inspire whoever crosses his path is a primary reason he is so respected by co-workers like Associate Professor Michael Clay Carey.
“(Huan) is fantastic. Whether it is working with students to help them develop expertise about the subjects that they’re learning or helping colleagues handle service work or committee work, (Huan) is always really enthusiastic to contribute and be a part of it,” Carey said. “He always comes to this kind of work with this positive attitude. He has this great energy about him. When he is around, he can lift a room.”