Reena Esmail


Reena Esmail


About the Piece

This arrangement intertwines “America the Beautiful” with a melody in Raag Desh (from the Hindustani classical tradition of India). Desh means ‘country’ in Hindi (the reason why South Asians often refer to themselves as ‘desi’ - meaning ‘of the country’. It implies a unity that precedes Partition, and acknowledges that there was a time where India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were not divided into separate countries, as they are now).

The “America the Beautiful” of India is called Vande Mataram. Just like America the Beautiful, it also celebrates these beautiful, varied landscapes, in a vast country filled with so many natural treasures. Vande Mataram is, unsurprisingly, in Raag Desh.

For immigrants, the love of country is often as much for America as for their country of origin, and I hope this arrangement evokes a sense of multi-national pride, especially among the ever-growing population of South Asians living in America.

About Reena Esmail

Reena Esmail works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music, to bring communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces. Esmail holds degrees from The Juilliard School and the Yale School of Music. A resident of Los Angeles, Esmail is the 20-23 Swan Family Artist in Residence with Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the 20-21 Composer in Residence with Seattle Symphony. She currently serves as 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.

About Discovery Composers

As the artistic director of Center for Musical Excellence, I am always on the look out for new and undiscovered talents.  They come to me, sometimes, by my colleagues’ recommendations and other times through young artists’ own research about our organization.  Tyson Davis and Andrew Bambridge are currently on our roster of CME Young Artists, whom we mentor.  Patricio Molina is a CME alumnus. Theo Chandler, Ji-Young Ko, and Daniel Newman-Lessler applied for our Grant program, and I got to know their work through that process. I decide on young artists when I notice a deep passion and drive within them, plus a certain kind of sparkle in the personality and lots of humility.  In addition to musical talents, I believe these are the qualities that will take the young artists far.  CME’s motto is "Moving Musicians Forward".  I’ve chosen our Discovery Composers based on these qualities,  whom we felt we could easily move forward.

- Min Kwon