Zack Verilli: Student by Day, DJ by Night

Emilia Scalaro

Zack Verrilli, dressed in sweatpants tucked into socks and a baggy sweatshirt, interlaces his fingers and smiles. 

“You ready?” Verrilli asked, his eyes barely glancing upward under his black History Channel baseball cap.

It’s hard to imagine that four days earlier Verrilli mesmerized the audience at a premier nightclub in Philadelphia with vibrant electronic music. Now, he sits, legs crossed, looking as relaxed as ever.

Verrilli, 20, is anything but relaxed. He is a junior in the Villanova School of Business, and he is working towards a double-major in finance and accounting. When he is not studying in the Exchange, Verrilli finds relief in one particular corner of his apartment. No, not just any corner, but the cozy spot next to his television, which houses his beloved soundboard.

“Junior year, I was looking for a DJ board, but I was looking for a very expensive board,” Verrilli recounted, speaking of high school years. “My parents were like, ‘Hm, no.’ So, they got me one that was less expensive, and it is the one I still have now. I like to think that I have mastered it, and I can do everything I want with it. That’s kind of cool.”

According to Verrilli, his early demos were all about trial-and-error. “I was super bad, like, super bad,” he said.

That soundboard has taken him pretty far since his early high school days. Since then, he has been an opening performer for Migos, Audien, Meek Mill, Galantis and, most recently, 3LAU. 

And yet, here he is, giggling as he talks about his whirlwind of a year, a year that has been nearly ten years in the making. 

“My cousin, Nate, went abroad to Italy when I was in sixth grade,” Verrilli said. “While he was there, a DJ named Avicii started performing around Europe, and that’s where he first started getting his feet. Nate came back and told me about the song ‘Levels.’ I was in sixth grade, and I had no idea what type of music this was. I thought it was super cool. It got me excited to kind of do something like that.”

For as long as Verrilli can remember, music has been a part of his life. He plays the guitar regularly at school and can fluidly play the piano. When he heard about music production, Verrilli wanted to give it a shot, just as he did with guitar and piano.

“I started trying to produce my own music when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, and that wasn’t going too hot,” Verrilli recalled. “At least right then. So, I stopped, and I decided to dj.”

His DJ career started off slowly. His first “performance” was on South Campus in Saint Monica Hall.

“The first thing I ever had to do, I think, was the St. Mo’s Christmas Party,” Verrilli breaks into a fit of laughter. “There was, like, 15 people.”

His latest show at NOTO, the Philly nightclub, was almost 70 times the size of that initial performance. The show was hosted by Sigma Chi at Villanova and the University of Pennsylvania for their annual philanthropy event “Derby Days,” according to the event’s homepage. Verrilli opened for the well-known EDM artist, 3LAU.

“I have played for all my close friends. I have played at parties,” Verrilli said of the Thursday night show. “But, I have never really played for a Villanova crowd bigger than, I think, 250 to 300 people. The fact that there were 550 Villanova tickets sold, and there were another 550 UPenn tickets sold, and the entire club was at max capacity is totally different, because I could look out and see a ton of people I knew and that I was friends with, and they were all super excited to be there. That was the most pressure.”

“I started dancing, and as soon as the drop hit, everyone was going nuts, and all the pressure melted away,” Verrilli said.

When Verrilli was younger, he idolized the likes of Avicii.

“I wanted to be like those EDM gods and just have everyone bond together in a crowd,” he said.

As Verrilli jumped on stage last Thursday, opening with the mix “We Will Booyah,” the crowd of Villanova and UPenn students roared with excitement. For a brief moment, Verrilli could be mistaken for the DJ he once worshipped, as he stood up on the DJ booth clapping his hands to the music in a white t-shirt and jeans. In his element on-stage, Verrilli was a force of nature.

The future for Verrilli is uncharted. He could have never guessed that his messing around on a soundboard in high school would have made him one of NOTO’s primary DJs.

“I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job of making sure I’m getting good grades and working hard, so that I can get a good job,” Verrilli said. “And then, just having this DJ thing going on the side. If it takes off, then, lit.”

This summer he is interning at PwC, securing a coveted spot among Villanova accounting majors in their deals division. But, his love for music will somehow be incorporated into his summer plans.

“I’m really excited because I’ll be in NYC, and there’s an incredible nightlife in NYC,” Verrilli said. “Hopefully, I can take advantage of the opportunities there.”

How will Verrilli manage to be both businessman and rising DJ? He has obviously got an answer for that, again smiling and adjusting his hat, he giggles.

“The DJ named D-Sol is actually David Solomon, who is actually the CEO of Goldman Sachs right now,” Verrilli said. “And, he plays at all these clubs in NYC, and he’s like this 65-year-old Goldman Sachs’ CEO. It is pretty funny. That is kind of my inspiration throughout this whole thing. Why not be able to do both?”

For Verrilli, slouched on the couch, his only hope is that his future emulates that.