A favorite quote of Chris Chilton’s is, “We don’t need permission to be great. If you don’t see what you want, go change it, go create it.” And that’s exactly what he’s done.
Many know Chilton better as DJ Chill. His love of music paved the way for a successful side job as a DJ and owner of Not So Loud Silent Party, a business Chilton started six years ago to expand his DJ service. It remains the only silent disco company in the area.
“A silent party or silent disco and DJ service is a unique sensory experience. I want everyone to experience this exciting type of event for themselves,” says Chilton, a Springfield native who graduated from Springfield South High School in 1988. He has been a firefighter and paramedic with the Springfield Fire Rescue Division for almost 23 years.
“I started doing the silent disco after seeing it on Instagram from a DJ that I follow in New York. I wondered, ‘How can any party be silent?’” he says. “I reached out, asked a lot of questions, researched, and decided to give it a try without ever experiencing it myself.
A small investment from Chilton’s father helped him purchase 250 wireless headphones, each with three channels.
“At a silent disco, guests receive a set of headphones and can choose from the three channels featuring a variety of music I provide. The channels are identified by the color of lights on the headphones – red, green or blue,” Chilton says. “Guests can switch between those three channels at any point they wish. It’s like having three parties in one.”
When people see someone with the same color on their headphones, it serves as a natural conversation starter between strangers, he added. The business is also unique in the options he provides clients.
“I can rent everything to you, and you can use your own music or use my pre-recorded mixes. I started doing it in September of 2014, and it has really taken off,” Chilton says. “I use a hybrid of silent and loud at my weddings and as far as I know, I'm the only person in the world using that model."
People have referred to Chilton as “Chill,” “C Chill,” and “Chilly Chill” because of his last name, so he decided to go by “DJ Chill” at events. His DJ career began with used equipment from the pawn shop sitting on two sawhorses and a piece of plywood that he gathered to do his first paid event – for only $75 – in the late 90s.
The business has grown since then, now with quite the setup, including two computers, a couple of 48-inch TVs, state-of-the-art equipment and speakers, almost 1,000 headsets for the silent disco, and the latest technology in mobile photo booths. In 2019, he worked more than 60 events – his busiest year since launching in 2001.
Chilton’s full-time job and part-time gig mix well together. Firefighters normally work a 24-hour shift followed by two days off, so his schedule allows for the blend.
“It works out to where I can have the days I need to be a DJ on the side,” he says. “When I started working as a firefighter, I had no idea I would love it as much as I do. I did the college thing for a while, but didn’t really like it, and when my dad told me about taking the firefighter test, I was unsure about it.
“It took me two or three years to really settle in as a firefighter. But it has allowed me to make connections between the two and have a presence in the community.”
And while he loves being a firefighter, he also loves music, which is why he wanted to be a DJ in the first place.
“My cousin from Philadelphia showed me how turntables and mixers work, so I started trying things on my own,” Chilton says. “I did my first wedding in 2001 for a fellow firefighter, and after a couple of slow years, the business just kind of took off. I was doing mostly family events before.”
He typically uses pre-recorded mixes played through iPods or computers for the other two channels at silent disco events. He also runs a live Instagram feed through his TVs.
“I have a lot of different mixes. Sometimes I will go to my room at home and work for hours on a new mix so I’m prepared for an event,” he says. “I try to do a mix that will hit everyone. I take requests and can do pretty much any genre. I go to other cities and people say – ‘all the stuff you do – I’ve never seen it.’ I always tell them that I'm from Springfield, and I’m always working on improvements.”
After being exposed to the silent party/silent disco concept, he was hooked and vowed to share it. The trend, which started in Europe, has made its way to some of the bigger U.S. cities and now to Springfield, courtesy of Chilton, who is a champion for the city.
“I love my city,” says Chilton, who serves on the boards of the United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison Counties, WellSpring, and the Springfield Peace Center. “I’m a third-generation city worker, as my grandfather worked for the water department and my father was a police officer. Springfield has been good for us.
“Springfield is small, but not too small, and it’s close enough to Dayton and Columbus, where you can find the few things that you may not find here."
Chilton calls himself “just a normal guy” who’s doing his part to make Springfield the best it can be.
“My life is great – not just OK. I love my life from when I was a child to now. School, family, everyone around me, and I want to share that with other people,” he says. “I think I bring positivity to our city, and it’s a positive attitude that can change the trajectory and allow us to take the steps and efforts necessary to get where we need to be.”
And Chilton’s life became even better just more than a year ago when he went from being single to being married with children and a puppy. His wife, Brittney, and children, Zion and Aubrielle, are now part of his life and his business and help at gigs.
“It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me,” he says about his marriage. “Everything in my life is where it should be.
“This all didn’t happen overnight. I always look back on the photo with the two sawhorses and the plywood – it’s all very humbling.”