Profile: Study Abroad by Day, DJ by Night

Study abroad student Ryan McCord guest DJ’d at Teatro Magno

The room is dark and the wind is blowing, albeit artificially. In the crowd, rows of young adults–both Spaniards and foreigners–push and shove as they attempt to meandar to the front. It’s 3am at Teatro Magno, a bustling club minutes away from Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. Those from the end of the queue have finally made it in as the early sleepers head home. The bar in the back of the room is stocked with Mahous, liquor, and beautiful, leggy bartenders. The lights flash on and a new man has taken the stage.

“Hello Madrid,” he says to the crowd. They cheer in response, arms shooting toward the sky. In an environment where music controls the crowd, the man in charge for the next hour is Ryan McCord, also known by his stage name Halcyon Dallas.

Unlike your average Spanish club DJ, McCord doesn’t play the typical set, consisting of remixes of ABBA’s Man After Midnight, Riton’s Friday, Central Cee’s Doja, and Pitbull’s Hotel Room Service. Unlike your average Spanish club DJ, McCord isn’t even Spanish. In fact, by day he is a study abroad student at St. Louis University. Tonight, however, he finds himself at 3am in the blinding spotlight of Madrid’s nightlife.

Thanks to clubbing hubs like Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia, Spain has become a hotspot for the modern DJ scene. Techno music first became popular in Spain in the 1980s, just as the country was becoming a democracy. Today, techno and Electronic Dance Music (EDM) are played nightly at most clubs in Madrid. DJs from all over the world venture to the city to play for a weekend. For McCord, however, the opportunity came suddenly.

With only 24 hours to prepare, no rehearsal time, and dozens of technical issues, the event differed from his other gigs in many ways. The biggest difference–the reason for the music.

“At clubs, they’re slotting us in to just continue playing the music to keep people happy,” he says, “One thing I’ve never really done is play to who I’m playing for.”

But it’s this very tactic that sets McCord apart from many other DJs. And it does not go unnoticed.

“When he plays, you can tell he actually is passionate about the music,” says Ford Buckner, who has seen him perform numerous times, “He’s not just playing the same five songs you can hear at any club or party.”

“When I play, my goal is not for people to leave thinking, ‘Oh, I had a great time at the club,’” McCord says, “I want them to be like, ‘I had a great time seeing that show or that DJ did a great job.”

Since a young age, McCord has always been interested in music. However, he pursued several other ventures before turning to DJing.

“I really wanted to make music, but I was also very bad at learning instruments,” he says, “I tried the violin, the guitar, the piano–I sucked at all of them.”

For McCord, DJing seemed like an easy enough solution. After months begging his parents for a DJ board for Christmas, his wish was finally granted. However, his musical struggles were not fixed all at once.

“I thought that if I had a DJ board, it would help me make music,” he says, “It, however, did not help.”

Still, McCord decided that rather than let the gift go to waste, he would at least give it a try.

“I just started playing around with it as much as I could and it started from there.”

The playing around paid off. The following year, McCord DJed at his first event: a pool party.

“I had no idea what I was supposed to do, so I found a bunch of YouTube songs, downloaded, and sort of mixed them together,” he says, “I ended up getting in the pool.”

After that, however, McCord began getting calls from moms all around the Dallas area. Lots of them.

“I didn’t really want to be a DJ at first, but I realized that parents would pay a lot of money for me to do nothing but sit there and play music,” he says,” Then, I got good at it.”

Not only did McCord begin to get good at it, but he also began to enjoy it, finding a way to make DJing his own.

“It started more as a business venture and then turned into an artist thing.”

That same year, McCord chose his stage name, Halcyon Dallas. To do so, he did as most seventh graders would and searched Google for ‘cool words,’ finding Halcyon seventh on the list. However, he realized he needed to differentiate himself after finding a Halcyon already on SoundCloud. To remedy this issue, he added his hometown–Dallas.

“The name is catchy,” says study abroad student Kelsey Corwen, “It just flows off the tongue.”

Flashforward to 2019, right before the beginning of his senior year of high school. After years of casually playing, McCord decided to throw his own show. McCord took a $8,000 loan from his parents, rented out the House of Blues Dallas for a ‘private party,’ and then illegally sold tickets