Destiny is a concept often reserved for tall tales involving knights and princesses or epic space operas about Jedi. For Bay Area native John Beaver however, his fate was bestowed upon him at birth and his tale is indeed tall. From a young age, he knew his future would involve working with animals and when he graduated from college 16 years ago, he was immediately hired by Happy Hollow Park and Zoo in San Jose where he still works today. Accomplishing your life’s goal straight out of college is a rarity but accomplishing two life goals straight out of college is unheard of and Beaver managed to pull it off—but not without his fair share of challenges.
“I knew what I wanted to do when I was growing up,” Beaver explains excitedly. “My parents took me to zoos all the time and I just fell in love with animals the same way I fell in love with dance music. Now I’m a zookeeper during the week and DJ during the weekends.”
Sixteen years ago, right around the time he was hired at the zoo, Beaver (once a rock music devotee) was invited to a rave. Unfamiliar with the scene and loyal to his musical taste, he attended anyway. Upon arrival, he was instantly enamored by the throngs of smiling bouncing people festooned in glowsticks who were all under the spell of one guy standing behind a booth and orchestrating the crowd. “I want to do that—I wanna be on stage and I wanna be responsible for giving people the time of their lives,” he tells me upon reflection of that fortuitous moment. Soon after, he traded the mosh pit for the dancefloor and purchased two turntables and a mixer, embarking on his second destiny: becoming a DJ.
Honing his chops in the bowels of San Francisco’s underground electronic music scene, Beaver schlepped his vinyl about town and made a name for himself. Now, he is a seasoned mashup DJ who has performed at Coachella and festivals all over the world—from Mexico to Australia—with his third consecutive performance on the floating music festival Groove Cruise, a personal favorite which sails from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas this weekend.
It seems that Beaver lives two very different lives: one in which he aids in animal conservation efforts through educating the public, and another in which he embraces the persona of a traveling DJ—both of which bring him fulfillment and purpose. He’s not only living the dream, but making a difference while doing so. Life seemed too perfect for DJ John Beaver—until he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“The doctors gave me a 50/50 shot,” Beaver reveals about his diagnosis five years ago. “They said it could spread and if it did, then I was gonna have to have more aggressive treatment and I’d have less of a chance. Hearing that from a doctor changes your whole life. But as a DJ, I had so many people around me that were sending me messages and support—I felt like I had an army behind me and I think that was a huge difference in being able to beat cancer.”
After years of struggling with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in your digestive tract, his body was more susceptible to developing cancer. He describes the mental, physical and emotional anguish he experienced in painful detail, yet there is not even a touch of melancholy or self-pity in his voice. Though tragic as his story was, his reflection on it was filled with warmth. “I would be feeling so horrible but at the same time my heart was so full,” he says.
Though Beaver is currently in remission, his health problems are an ongoing battle, but one that he will fight with joy and gratitude. To call him optimistic is an understatement for this death-defying zookeeper DJ—there are few humans who exude so much pure happiness. Through beating cancer, his work as a zookeeper and his role as a DJ, he has transcended beyond his professions and become a leader.
“My career became larger than being a DJ,” Beaver asserts. “Instead of just being another DJ on stage that plays music and makes people happy, I’m that DJ who influences people in a positive way beyond the music. If we’re all helping each other, we’re all supporting each other, and the world is gonna be a better place.”