Haley Halak: 'I Do Music To Make People Happy'
If life is a song, this Whiz Kid's anthem is just getting started.
Name: Haley Halak
School: Senior at York Community High School
Achievement: She was the lone, clear voice that led Elmhurst in the National Anthem on Sept. 11, when the community gathered at Wild Meadows Trace to remember the tragic events of a decade ago. But this dynamic singer/songwriter also writes her own songs and taught herself to play guitar.
Key to Awesomeness: Once at a York track meet, Haley was in the middle of singing “The Star Spangled Banner” when she lost her train of thought.
“As it was happening, I thought, ‘I can either make this funny, or else it’s going to be really awkward,’ ” she says.
Quick on her feet, Haley sang, “I forgo-ot the words,” where the elusive lost lyrics should have gone. The crowd laughed, and Haley quickly got back on track and finished the song.
“You’ve got to mess up sometimes to make yourself realize that you can’t just show up and not practice,” she laughs. “Note to self: Never do that again! That one went down in the history books.”
Haley, who was 7 at the time of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, knew that the crowd gathering in Wild Meadows Trace would be different. They would be feeling emotional from the memory of fear and uncertainty the nation faced just 10 years ago.
“I was kind of nervous because it’s a really intense thing to do, to sing in front of a lot of people who are feeling a lot of emotions,” she says. “I didn’t want to break down when everyone was feeling like this. I felt like it was so important and such an honor to the people who passed and helped.”
Haley’s voice rang out clear and strong over the silent crowd, who stood with hands over their hearts, facing the flag.
Haley remembers watching her father play guitar when she was a little girl.
“My Dad inspired me to be a musician,” she says. “In fourth grade I picked up the guitar and I said, ‘I’m going to learn this. It’s going to happen.’ ”
She spent hours in her room figuring out chords, reading books and watching YouTube videos to help her with her guitar playing. Soon after that, she began writing her own songs. She performed at her eighth-grade graduation, as well as her older sister’s wedding.
Besides music, Haley is involved in her youth group at Elmchurch, and has played basketball and participated on the track team. She’s a member of the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Foundation at York, and has also taken an active role in Student Council. Even though her senior class schedule doesn’t allow her to be a member of Student Council this year, Haley still stays involved and has been nominated to this year’s Homecoming Court. After school, she holds a part-time job at Armand’s Pizza.
But Haley’s first love is music. Besides being in Concert Choir in school, she is a perennial participant in Spirito!, a choral organization based in Elmhurst. She also sings lead vocals in “With Our Sunken Ship,” a rock band comprised entirely of high school students. In February, WOSS took first place at The Next Big Thing band competition at the Metro in Chicago. Next month, the group will be cashing in their first-place prize of 20 free hours in a recording studio to cut their first album. (To hear the band performing Haley’s original song, “Just Keep Going” live at the Metro, click here.)
Sometimes people ask Haley whether she’s going to try to become famous.
“I do music to make people happy,” she says. “It would be nice to be famous one day, but that’s not what I’m thirsty for right now. I’m thirsty to have a good well-rounded life, to show people love.”