MJ Halco is a composer from Chicago, Illinois. Halco composes for chamber ensemble, concert band, and film, and enjoys exploring new genres and instrumentations. She has had premieres and performances in Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and New York. Most recently, Halco has enjoyed successful performances of her multi-media ballet for concert band, "Together, Triumphant" in 2017, and her tuba-euphonium ensemble work "Invocation" at the 2019 International Tuba Euphonium Association Conference. She graduated with a Bachelor's in Music Composition from Northern Illinois University in 2015, and earned her Master's in Music Composition from George Mason University in 2018. She has studied composition with Dr. Ted Hatmaker, Professor Mark Camphouse, and Dr. Jesse Guessford, and studied euphonium with Charlie Schuchat and
Dr. Mark Jenkins.
My philosophy for creating music is all about experience. I have experienced music in many capacities- audience member, performer, composer, and even as conductor a few times. Music is experienced in a sort of chain reaction. The composer writes the music: a direct line into their mind, the source of the musical message. The conductor interprets the music: they communicate their thoughts to the performers through their words and movements. The performers add their own perspective: through the conductor’s interpretation, the performers add their own experiences to the music and make it unique. The audience receives: they enjoy a performance, unlike any other, and listen to the music through their own frame of reference as well as those who brought the music to them.
I write to begin that chain.
I write music that is tonal, but not necessarily traditionally functional. While certainly influenced by the voices of the past, my music rings of modern sounds as well. My music is accessible to a broad audience and I believe they find it interesting to listen to, regardless of their musical background. Writing for unusual instrumentation is appealing to me. My favorite ensembles to write for are concert band, chamber groups, and for film. Each piece is carefully considered, and contains a part of myself. Music is my medium of communicating to the world.
“Imagination creates reality.” - Richard Wagner
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to remain silent.” - Victor Hugo
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
- Leonard Bernstein
I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Music became a part of my life early on, from both my parents’ musical interests (the first song I knew the words to was “She Loves You” by the Beatles) as well as following in my older brother’s footsteps into the school band program. From second grade through eighth grade I took piano lessons. In fifth grade I learned the flute, and in seventh grade I learned piccolo. I grew enamored with Drum Corps International, and eventually learned the baritone in order to march. My love for low brass surpassed my love for flute, and I switched to play euphonium at the end of high school.
Composition, or music as a career at all, never crossed my mind until high school. At first, I planned to become a band director, but the thought of going to the same place to do the same thing everyday disinterested me. My whole life I had been creating (art, messes, trouble), so why not continue with what came so naturally?
In high school, I began arranging for groups of my friends. I was fortunate to have performance opportunities in front of a variety of audiences. Northern Illinois University offered me a spot in their music program and provided an ideal environment for the continuation of my education. NIU gave me the opportunity to participate in a multitude of ensembles, some with leadership positions, and all helped shape me into a well rounded musician. I graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor's in Music. I decided to continue my education and I received my Master's in Music Composition from George Mason University in 2018.
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