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Dance Marathon's Music Man

Alumnus returns for 17th consecutive year spinning tunes at Dance Marathon

As a sophomore at Northwestern University in 1995, Jay Sims signed up to serve as assistant disc jockey for Dance Marathon (NUDM), one of the nation’s largest student-run philanthropic events. But he didn't know he would keep doing it for so long.

When the 39th annual NUDM kicks off Friday, March 8, Sims will assume his familiar place on a stage behind the dance floor for the 17th consecutive year. He will spend 30 hours spinning roughly 270 songs for the more than 1,000 student dancers and volunteers raising funds to benefit NUDM's primary beneficiary, the Danny Did Foundation. The not-for-profit organization provides epilepsy awareness information and subsidizes seizure detection devices for families in need.

NUDM's secondary beneficiary is the Evanston Community Foundation, an organization that builds, connects and distributes resources and knowledge for the public good through local organizations.

A 1997 graduate of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Sims initially embarked on a career in chemical engineering after graduating, but continued to DJ at Dance Marathon and other Northwestern and Chicago area events. Eventually his passion for music could not be contained, and he started his own full-time wedding entertainment business.

Sims said Dance Marathon is always the highlight of his year, and his deep roots with the organization have allowed him to help students develop NUDM traditions, such as the 30-Hour Dance (which dancers learn a few steps at a time over the course of the weekend) as well as the traditional inclusion of various songs at key moments throughout the weekend, such as The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” at sunrise on Saturday morning.

“I know eventually my run is going to end here, and I can’t believe it’s actually lasted this long, but I like to think that I’m still youthful in appearance,” Sims said. “There’s never been any sort of contract or agreement, but they always approach me to come back. I just try to do what I know I can do to keep the students dancing.”

For more information on NUDM 2013, visit

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