Irish composer and doctoral candidate Emma O’Halloran is crafting a career centered around representation: creating music that makes any listener feel seen. Freely intertwining acoustic and electronic music, she has written for folk musicians, chamber ensembles, turntables, laptop orchestra, symphony orchestra, film, and theatre. For her efforts, O’Halloran has been praised by I Care If You Listen editor-in-chief Amanda Cook for writing “some of the most unencumbered, authentic, and joyful music that I have heard in recent years,” and has won numerous competitions, including National Sawdust’s inaugural Hildegard competition and the Next Generation award from Beth Morrison Projects.
As one who came to composition later in her early twenties in part because of her own lack of exposure to female composers, O’Halloran’s work often revolves around questions of representation: who is able to draw inspiration from mentors, creators, or even fictional characters that look, dream, and think like them? More importantly, who isn’t? She currently answers this question through writing with unabashed pop music influences, such as sampling the Spice Girls in an instrumental piece or creating multi-dimensional female characters in an opera. Outside of music, many recognize her as an outspoken advocate for gender equality in new music, and is particularly known as a founding creator of the #HearAllComposers campaign, which received coverage from The New Yorker, VAN Magazine, and other classical outlets.
O’Halloran is a founding member of the Kinds of Kings collective, a group of six composers described by The New Yorker as “distinguished young creators who work in diverse styles.” As part of Kinds of Kings, she not only produces immersive and inclusive work, but is developing a mentorship infrastructure for composers in underheard and underrepresented demographics.
Raised in Athlone, Ireland, Emma O’Halloran spends her time between New Jersey and New York City. Currently pursuing a PhD at Princeton University, additional education comes from the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the National University of Ireland Maynooth.