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's work has been commissioned by ensembles including the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Kronos Quartet, Imani Winds, Baltimore Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Town Music Seattle, Albany Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Girls Choir, Conspirare, Juilliard415, and Yale Institute of Sacred Music.
Esmail is the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 2020–2023 Swan Family Artist in Residence, and Seattle Symphony’s 2021–22 Composer-in-Residence. She was a 2019 United States Artist Fellow in Music, and a 2019 S&R Foundation Washington Award winner. Esmail was a 2017–18 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, and the 2012 recipient of the Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Recordings of her work have been released on major labels including Hyperion Records, Delos Music and Cedille Records.
Esmail holds degrees in composition from The Juilliard School (BM’05) and the Yale School of Music (MM’11, MMA’14, DMA’18). Her primary teachers have included Samuel Adler, Susan Botti, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Christopher Theofanidis.
In 2011–12, Esmail received a Fulbright-Nehru grant to study Hindustani music in India. Her Hindustani music teachers include Srimati Lakshmi Shankar and Gaurav Mazundar, and she currently studies and collaborates with Saili Oak. Her doctoral thesis, entitled Finding Common Ground: Uniting Practices in Hindustani and Western Art Musicians explores the methods and challenges of the collaborative process between Hindustani musicians and Western composers.
Esmail is the Co-Chair of the Board of New Music USA, and Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Shastra, a non-profit organization that promotes cross-cultural music connecting musical traditions of India and the West.