Reena Esmail
Pasadena, CA
2019 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by The Rockefeller Foundation.

Indian-American composer Reena Esmail works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music and brings communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces. Esmail holds degrees in composition from The Juilliard School (BM ’05) and the Yale School of Music (MM ’11, MMA ’14, DMA ’18).

In recent seasons, Esmail has worked with the Kronos Quartet, Albany Symphony, Imani Winds, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, Salastina Music Society and American Composers Orchestra. Her work is performed regularly throughout the U.S. and abroad, and has been programmed at Carnegie Hall, the Barbican Centre in London, Schloss Esterhazy in Hungary, and throughout India. Esmail received a 2011-12 Fulbright-Nehru to study Hindustani music in India, where she was a 2011 INK Fellow (in association with TED). Her 40-minute oratorio, This Love Between Us, for chorus, orchestra, sitar and tabla, was written for Yale Schola Cantorum and Juilliard415, premiering at Lincoln Center and touring India in March 2017. Esmail’s primary Hindustani vocal teachers include Srimati Lakshmi Shankar and Saili Oak.

Recent highlights include new works for Town Music Seattle, Richmond Symphony, Juilliard415, San Francisco Girls Chorus, Chamber Music Palisades, SongFest, and a solo partita for violinist Vijay Gupta. In addition, Esmail is an Artistic Director of Shastra, a non-profit organization that promotes cross-cultural music and connects the great musical traditions of India and the West. She is also the Co-Composer in Residence with Street Symphony, where she works with communities experiencing homelessness and incarceration in Los Angeles.

Portrait photo by Rachel Garcia.