By Inez Castor
For the Triplicate
We've all known youngsters that seem to have been born mature. They're serious and thoughtful at an early age and they make adult decisions and choices.
Kevin Dikes is just such a kid. A 14-year-old highschool freshman, he has already created his own business. With the help and support of his parents, Carolyn and David Dikes, he conceived the idea, made financing choices and purchased equipment.
Kids have always earned money, but a generation ago the enterprises they began were likely to entail yardwork, babysitting or newspaper delivery. A bicycle or a lawnmower were the usual passports to a part-time income.
These days, the jobs that youngsters create are often in the field of electronics, and the equipment they need is much more complex and expensive. Lawnmowers and bicycles have been replaced by strobe lights and turntables.
"I'm a mobile DJ," Kevin explained. "I go to wedding receptions, school dances, parties, any event that needs music."
Kevin was in the 7th grade when he decided he wanted to be a disc jockey. He created a business plan and took it to the Small Business Development Center. He found financing, then decided there had to be a better way than going into debt and paying interest on a loan.
"I was afraid of those big monthly payments. But my mom was in 4-H, and she said you could make a lot of money by raising and selling animals," he said. "So I joined 4-H and my dad bought me two pigs." When the pigs didn't meet the required size for the livestock auction, "my dad, with his big heart, bought them. In a way, he bought his own pigs back, but he gave me $800 for them."
Kevin invested the money in speakers, turntables and lights. He found a small, used bar that perfectly suited his needs and ordered business cards reading "DJ Rush, Mobile DJ Services." Now weekend evenings find Kevin spinning disks ranging from Don Ho to disco, depending upon the age and interest of his listeners.
His own favorite music is called Trance, a form of dance music created with synthesizers and drum machines. Primarily instrumental, Trance has a pounding, hypnotic rhythm.
The Dikes family has a powerful history of loving and supporting one another. Until her recent death Kevin's great-grandmother, a courageous woman who required almost complete physical care, lived with them. Perhaps the life and death of Ruby Rook helped to give Kevin his remarkable patience and maturity.
He and his brother are encouraged to make their own choices and explore new interests. Their parents have created a family unit in which trying new things is both safe and rewarding.
At 12, Keven enjoyed helping to prepare the family meals and thought it might be fun to prepare a big holiday dinner. So Carolyn did the shopping, stood by to advise, and let him tackle the job. This Thanksgiving, for the second year in a row, he cooked the family dinner entirely on his own.
Just as he learned a lot while cooking his first turkey, Keven learned a lot during his first year as a business owner.
"I ordered lights from a company in New York, and half of them came broke. I had a gig the next day, and only a few lights," he said. "I sent them back, and they sent me more broken lights."
"Now I go to Musician's Friend, and they show me lights in action and I know what I'm getting." And one of the things he's gotten is an invitation to a DJ convention in San Francisco where there will be displays, seminars and workshops. He and his mother have reservations to attend.
In school, Kevin is juggling "all the basic stuff," like math, English, computers and physical education. He's looking forward to electives, wanting both drama and debate. He's also looking forward to being old enough to get a driver's license.
In the meantime, his parents provide transportation for Kevin and all his equipment. When asked about plans for the future, he knows exactly what he wants.
"I'll be doing this well into my 30s or '40s," he said with that emphatic certainty known only by the very young. "By then I'll have a radio station or a music store. I know it will be something involved with music." He's just as firm about what he doesn't want.
"I think the world would be perfect if there were no drugs and alcohol. Half the people that get murdered in this world are getting killed because of drugs and alcohol."
Uncomfortable around people who have been drinking heavily, Kevin is sometimes grateful for the wide padded bar that wraps around him like a buffer between he and the inebriated.
"But I know I wouldn't have the gig if I wasn't supposed to be there, and everytime I see a drunk, I'm more sure I don't want to drink."
If the Dikes family is an example, the American family is in much better shape than we're sometimes led to believe.