Indian-American composer Reena Esmail enjoys working in both the Western and Hindustani (North Indian) classical music idioms.
Esmail holds a bachelors degree in composition from The Juilliard School, and a masters degree from the Yale School of Music. Her primary teachers have included Susan Botti, Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Theofanidis and Martin Bresnick, Christopher Rouse and Samuel Adler. She has won numerous awards, including the Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (and subsequent publication of a work by C.F. Peters) and two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. She is currently in the post-residential period of her doctoral degree at the Yale School of Music.
In recent seasons, Esmail has worked with the Kronos Quartet, Albany Symphony, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, Salastina Music Society, SOLI, Le Train Bleu and American Composers Orchestra. Her work is performed regularly throughout the US and abroad, and has been programmed at Carnegie Hall, the Barbican Centre in London, Schloss Esterhazy in Hungary, and throughout India. Esmail has served as composer in residence for Albany Symphony (2016-17), Street Symphony (2016) in downtown Los Angeles, Concerts on the Slope (2015-16) in Brooklyn, NY and the Pasadena Master Chorale (2014-16) in Pasadena, CA. Her recent film work includes original scores for Radha (Rupeshi Shah – 2015) and Kalkimanthankatha (Ashish Avikunthak – 2014).
Esmail was a recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru grant for the 2011-2012 year and lived in New Delhi, India, where she was affiliated with the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts at Delhi University, and studied Hindustani vocal music with Gaurav Mazumdar. She was selected as a 2011 INK Fellow to speak about her work at the INK Conference (in association with TED) in Jaipur, with additional speaking engagements in Chennai, Delhi and Goa. For the 2010-11 season, she was the conductor and arranger for Yale’s Hindi a cappella group, Sur et Veritaal. Esmail’s doctoral thesis, entitled Finding Common Ground: Uniting Practies in Hindustani and Western Art Musicians explores the methods and challenges of the collaborative process between Hindustani musicians and Western composers. Her most recent Hindustani vocal studies have been with Srimati Lakshmi Shankar and Saili Oak in Los Angeles, CA.
As a pianist, Esmail studied with Robert Turner in Los Angeles, CA. She was a winner in the MTAC-WLA Chamber Music Competition in 2001, and performed chamber music with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She has studied violin with Ella Rutkovsky-Heifets and Robert Uchida, and has sung with the New Amsterdam Singers and C4.
Esmail was on the composition faculty at Manhattan School of Music Precollege from 2008-2011, and was also on the theory and ear training faculty there from 2006-2009. Both her composition and piano students have placed in state and national competitions. She taught the music theory core curriculum at Yale College from 2012-14. Recently, Esmail has worked with composers through mentorship programs including Shastra’s Arranging with Hindustani Music, Pasadena Master Chorale’s Listening to the Future. This season, she will mentor young women composers through Kaufmann Center’s new program, The Luna Lab.
Upcoming works for the 2016-17 season include: I Rise: Women in Song – a new 25 minute choir and orchestra work for Lehigh University women’s ensemble, a new work for Yale Schola Cantorum and Juilliard 415 with Hindustani musicians for their spring 2017 India tour, a new Clarinet Concerto for Shankar Tucker with Albany Symphony and a wind quintet for Imani Winds.
Esmail currently resides in Los Angeles, California.