Houston Symphony Features Indo-American Composer

Houston: The Houston Symphony’s second concert of the season features works entirely by women composers, and in particular, Indian-American composer Reena Esmail, whose music straddles and unites the worlds of Indian and Western classical music. A brass quintet of Houston Symphony musicians are performing Reena Esmail’s  “Khirkhiyaan: Three Transformations for Brass Quintet”.

Meaning “Windows” in Hindi, Khirkhiyaan provides three windows into Esmail’s work, each movement a reimagining for brass quintet of a previous Esmail work. The movements are titled Jog, Joota, and Tuttarana, and the whole work is on the Houston Symphony program Saturday, September 19, 2020, which is being livestreamed, as is every Saturday night concert in the Houston Symphony’s subscription season.

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.

About her composition. Reena says, “So much of my work with brass instruments has come into being because of incredible and intrepid brass players who have shown me new windows into my own music. Hence the title: khirkiyaan means ‘windows’ in Hindi, and this brass quintet is made up of three ‘windows’ into my work. Each movement is a transformation of another piece of mine for another instrumentation, reimagined for brass quintet.”

Esmail’s work has been commissioned by ensembles including the Los Angeles Master Chorale,  Kronos Quartet, Imani Winds, Richmond Symphony, Town Music Seattle,  Albany Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta,  River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Girls Chorus, The Elora Festival, Juilliard415, and Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Upcoming seasons include new work for Seattle Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Amherst College Choir and Orchestra, Santa Fe Pro Musica, and Conspirare.

Esmail is the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 2020-2023 Swan Family Artist in Residence, and Seattle Symphony’s 2020-21 Composer-in-Residence.  Previously, she was named a 2019 United States Artist Fellow in Music, and the 2019 Grand Prize Winner of the S & R Foundation’s Washington Award.  Esmail was also a 2017-18 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow. She was the 2012 Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (and subsequent publication of a work by C.F. Peters)

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 Susan Botti, Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Theofanidis and Martin Bresnick, Christopher Rouse and Samuel Adler. She 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 was Composer-in-Residence for Street Symphony (2016-18) and is currently an Artistic Director of Shastra, a non-profit organization that promotes cross-culterual music connecting music traditions of India and the West.

She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.