Malayna Johnson is a senior at Harwood Union High School and March’s Student Composer Showcase. Her Latin-jazz inspired piece for brass quintet is called Limitless, referring to her desire to push musical boundaries. In it, horns growl, climbing into screeching high registers, pushing the limits of what the instruments can do.
Malayna is self-taught on a variety of instruments, including the French horn and piano “I play by ear, which has always been helpful,” she says. She describes herself as someone who can pick up almost any instrument and learn how to play it.
Malayna says she knew she could play piano when she 5 years old, while watching a Disney movie. “I always loved the opening song, so I said why not try to play it. So I sat down and taught myself how to play it,” she says.
She started getting interested in composing music her freshman year of high school. “I took music theory my freshman year ... that’s when I was offered to start composing, writing songs. I loved being able to write music and then play back something that I wrote,” she says.
As for her piece, Limitless, Malayna says she has always loved the sound of brass instruments and Latin jazz. “The original version was just congas and the brass,” she says. “I realized that the congas weren’t fulfilling to the song, it needed to be more powerful, so that’s when I started writing for the full drum set.”
Performing Limitless is Andy Gagnon on drums, Will Charron on woodblock, and Inora Brass with Chris Rivers, Jason Whitcomb, Joy Worland, Lori Salimando-Porter and Bill Keck.
Broadcast Monday, March 2 at 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, March 4 at 8:30 a.m., Friday, March 6 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, March 7 at 9 a.m.
VPR Classical's Student Composer Showcase is produced in collaboration with Music-COMP’s online mentoring program.