Virtually every NDSU student has encountered John Olhoft at least once around campus since the first day of class, and there is a predominant reason why: John Olhoft is the Boom-Box Guy.
Olhoft, a freshman majoring in agriculture and biosystems engineering, is the guy walking around NDSU in beautiful 80 degree days and blustery subzero temperatures blasting music from his now-famous boom boxes.
“I like making people smile and having them be comfortable to do so,” Olhoft said. “It’ll be 20 below, and I’m not just out there playing music for the heck of it. I’m hoping to make people’s days a little bit brighter.”
Olhoft’s passion for music started well before his days at NDSU. At the end of his high school days in Barrett, Minn., he bought a company that only had speakers and a mixing board and transformed it into his very own DJ business.
Starting off simple, Olhoft bought an amp with a subwoofer and brought it to sporting events at his high school to pump music for people. The feedback was so overwhelmingly positive that Olhoft wanted to make his own portable amps.
“I talked to a band teacher and got an alto clarinet case. Then, I took some speakers out of a truck, along with some other items, and made my first boom box,” described Olhoft.
According to Olhoft, essentially all that is needed is an amplifier and a battery. Lithium ion batteries are his power source of choice, as they provide 20 to 30 hours of use on a single charge, but they tend to be expensive.
“Getting all the parts is the hardest, but once I have everything, it takes about 2-4 hours to make a boom box,” says Olhoft. “I’ve been building them out of the dorms this past semester, but I’m in the Farmhouse now, so I’ve got a little bit more elbow-room.”
What makes Olhoft’s boom boxes special is that they are all custom-made from unique items. Some samples of the boom boxes he has made include three 50-caliber ammo boxes, a maroon and a blue suitcase, a Canon camera case that weighs only half a pound and the renowned green-and-yellow-pained Bison Box.
“Boom boxes are a way to make a lot of sound fairly cheap in comparison to most professional DJs,” said Olhoft. “I custom make these boom boxes, and I am known to do a custom build if people are interested. It’s a hobby for me that’s really enjoyable and fun.”
Presently, Olhoft has made about 16 boom boxes, seven or eight of which are floating around NDSU’s campus. He only has one other guy carrying around a boom box that pumps country solid, but he would like to see that number grow.
“Anybody else who wants to blast a boom box walking around campus, I say go for it,” said Olhoft. “I like having music around campus, and I know others do too.”
Using his DJ experience from weddings, school dances and events like the Gold Star Marching Band’s Rose Dance, Olhoft tries to read his student audience in order to pick the right kind of music, but he’s always open to song requests on the fly. He did themed music around Halloween and the same for Christmas.
“It’s been really fun to do something like that,” said Olhoft. “Around Valentine’s Day, I’m thinking of throwing in some Marvin Gaye. Spice it up a bit.”
At the start of the school year, many students had a puzzled look, wondering what was this guy doing walking around with a boom box, but since then, things have definitely changed.
“Now, I get a lot of high-fives and knuckles, and tons of people have broken out in random dancing when I pass by,” said Olhoft. “I’ll keep walking around, I’ll keep playing music because that’s what really makes it worth it.”