Episode 117: Finding My Voice with Benedict Sheehan

In this episode I have a chat with GRAMMY nominated conductor and composer, Benedict Sheehan of the St. Tikhon Monastery Choir. This passionate conversation begins with Benedict’s advocacy for people, like himself, who stutter. As you will hear, it is important that we remember that EVERYONE has something to say. We need only listen. We then discuss the ways the GRAMMY nominations changed his routine, his love of the Orthodox Church music tradition and how it has shaped his sound aesthetic. Finally, we approach the concept of the “composer’s voice,” and the importance of a frame of reference from which to approach the music. Tune in to hear these items and more discussed on the Choralosophy Oxford series!

Benedict Sheehan
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Episode 117

Composers Recommended by Benedict

  • Kurt Sander
  • Tikey Zes
  • Michael Adamis
  • Stefan Mokranjac

Two-time GRAMMY® nominee and American Prize-winner Benedict Sheehan has been called “a choral conductor and composer to watch in the 21st century” (ConcertoNet) and “a remarkable musician” (Choral Journal). He is Artistic Director and Founder of the Saint Tikhon Choir and Artefact Ensemble, and Director of Music at St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary in Pennsylvania. His works are published by Oxford University Press and others, and his award-winning choral recordings and performances have received widespread critical acclaim.

Described as “an up-and-coming conductor” (The Oregonian), “a rising star in the choral world” (Catholic Sentinel), and as having “set the bar for Orthodox liturgical music in the English-speaking world” (Orthodox Arts Journal), composer and conductor Benedict Sheehan is Director of Music at St. Tikhon’s Seminary and Monastery in Pennsylvania, Artistic Director of professional vocal ensemble The Saint Tikhon Choir, and CEO and co-founder of the Artefact Institute, a collective of “culture creators.” Working closely with his wife Talia Maria Sheehan, a professional vocalist and visionary music educator, the Sheehans have become two of the most sought-after clinicians in Orthodox sacred music in America. Benedict has appeared frequently as a guest conductor with the professional vocal ensemble Cappella Romana, where his performances of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil had one reviewer so “emotionally overwhelmed” that she was “attempting to hold back tears” (Oregon ArtsWatch). In 2018 he was instrumental in producing the monumental world premiere of Alexander Kastalsky’s Requiem for Fallen Brothers (1917) at the Washington National Cathedral. The project culminated in a 2020 Naxos recording on which Sheehan served as a Chorus Master and an Executive Producer. Benedict is in high demand as a composer. His works have been performed by the Grammy-nominated Skylark Vocal Ensemble, the Grammy-nominated PaTRAM Institute Singers, Cappella Romana, the William Jewell Choral Scholars, Te Deum, the Pacific Youth Choir, and many others. His new work Gabriel’s Message was recorded and released in 2020 by John Rutter, Bob Chilcott, and The Oxford Choir. Skylark’s recent recording Once Upon A Time (2020) features a “story score” by Benedict which has been called “evocative” (Gramophone), “quite extraordinary” (Limelight), “brilliant” (MetroWest Daily News), and “otherworldly” (Boston Musical Intelligencer). His music is published by Oxford University Press, Artefact Publications, Musica Russica, MusicSpoke, and St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press. Benedict lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and seven daughters.

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Episode 114: Boys Keep Singing! With Martin Ashley

A Choralosophy Oxford Series episode!

One of the most challenging aspects of being a teacher of singing is dealing with the male changing voice. Not only are we undereducated on the physiology of the issue, we are often inconsiderate of the psychology as well. In this conversation, I have called in a true expert to help us parse this out. Professor Martin Ashley is the editor-in-chief of the research journal of the Association of British Choral Directors, and has done EXTENSIVE peer reviewed work on not only the male changing voice during puberty and at all stages, but also the issue of the struggle to keep boys singing. Join us as we discuss an overview of the body and mind of the adolescent male singer, the issues that face choir directors in teaching during the change and much more.

Find Martin’s Series for Cambiata voices!

Martin Ashley
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Episode 114
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Martin Ashley is currently editor-in-chief of the research journal of the Association of British Choral Directors, having retired as Head of Education Research at Edge Hill University in 2013. Trained as a middle school music teacher, he worked in a variety of school settings before moving to the University of the West of England, gaining a post-doctoral fellowship for musical learning and boys’ understanding of voice. An AHRC funded collaboration with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and University of York resulted in significant outputs on “cambiata” and the adolescent male voice. He has published widely on singing during early adolescence, working with a paediatric specialist on the timing of puberty and voice change. He has published work on historical trends in puberty, Tudor pitch and the sixteenth century mean voice. His most recently published book was Singing in the Lower Secondary School for OUP and his forthcoming book is Dead Composers and Living Boys. In response to the covid pandemic, he assembled a small team of virologists and public health professionals to produce a rapid response review for ABCD and a smartphone app to monitor risk mitigation in choral singing, for which he received the Sir Charles Grove prize for outstanding contribution to the musical life of the country.

Mentioned in the episode

Episode 103: Finding My Voice with Brittney E. Boykin

In Collaboration with Oxford University Press to Bring You Great Conversations

B.E. Boykin

In the next edition of the Oxford Series, I am excited to bring you a new voice in their catalog, Brittney E. Boykin. I had an open and refreshing conversation with her about her journey through the choral world as a conductor, teacher and then composer. Navigating life in the choral world as a Black Woman, cultural sharing vs. appropriation, the sea-change that was 2020, work-life balance and more. “When I think of diversity within the classical music world, there is diversity within sound, within ensembles, within colors.” – BE Boykin

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Episode 103

Find Brittney on Graphite Publishing

When I think of diversity within the classical music world, there is diversity within sound, within ensembles, within colors.

B.E. Boykin

Find Brittney’s Publishing Company, Klavia Press

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B.E. (Brittney Elizabeth) Boykin is a native of Alexandria, Virginia and comes from a musical family. At the age of 7, she began piano lessons and continued her studies through high school under the tutelage of Mrs. Alma Sanford. Mrs. Sanford guided her through various competitions, such as the NAACP’s ACT-SO competition where she garnered 1st place for 3 consecutive years in the local competition, as well as being awarded The Washington Post “Music and Dance Award” in the spring of 2007.”

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Boykin then pursued her classical piano studies at Spelman College under the leadership of Dr. Rachel Chung. After graduating Spelman College in 2011 with a B.A. in Music, Boykin continued her studies at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey. During her time at Westminster, she was awarded the R and R Young Composition Prize just a few months shy of graduating with her M.M. in Sacred Music with a concentration in choral studies in May, 2013.

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Boykin’s choral piece, “We Sing as One,” was commissioned to celebrate Spelman College’s 133rd Anniversary of its founding at the 2014 Founders Day Convocation. She has also been featured as the conductor/composer-in-residence for the 2017 Harry T. Burleigh Commemorative Spiritual Festival at Tennessee State University. Boykin has been commissioned and collaborated with several organizations, including a number of ACDA divisions, the Minnesota Opera and the Kennedy Center. She obtained her PhD from Georgia State University with an emphasis in Music Education and is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Episode 128: The Strange Relationship between Choral Music Ed and Vocal Ped with Dr. Sharon Hansen

One of the oddest things about Vocal Music Education as a profession, is how little we are required to learn in our schooling about the voice. Vocal Pedagogy courses are often the purview of voice performance majors, which is very odd considering how many more students will be impacted with vocal instruction by a person with a Music Ed degree.

Episode 99: The World Imagined with Gabriel Jackson

Part of the Oxford Series on the Choralosophy Podcast

Dig into the mind of Gabriel Jackson, one of my FAVORITE composers. His ability to mix the modern with the ancient really makes my “Spidey Sense” tingle! We discuss his music, and journey to composition, as well his feelings about Orchestral musicians seeming to live in a different strata from us lowly Choral musicians. Spoiler alert, we are both annoyed by this…We also touch on what the pandemic was like for him as composer, and the age old themes in music and poetry that retain their resonance today, and possibly in a new way.

You can’t write really difficult music and then complain that nobody performs it.

Gabriel Jackson

If you are in the US, check out Gabriel’s upcoming musical exploits! The US Premiere of The World Imagined! Concert in Elgin, Illinois. Find Gabriel’s catalog on his site!

Upcoming events involving Gabriel’s compositions. https://www.variantsix.com/new-suns

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Gabriel Jackson-Photo credit: Reinis Hofmanis
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Episode 99: Gabriel Jackson
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Episode 91: Music is My Culture with Trevor Weston

You need to create music that reflects you. Start with who you are. I tend to tell students not to filter out aspects of their lives from their music. If you start with who you are, then you are the only one who can come up with the best solutions.

Trevor Weston
Trevor Weston

Trevor Weston is a singer, organist, composer and professor of composition and African American Music History at Drew University. We discussed how music, culture and society intersect, as well as the importance of making distinctions between race and culture in the context of music. Often times, our musical experiences, our backgrounds, and our education creates our culture. We share more of that that we realize with more people than we realize. One of Trevor’s learned life lessons involves recognizing the power music has to connect to our common humanity and experiences. Don’t miss this insightful and uplifting episode.

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Episode 91
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Trevor Weston’s music has been called a “gently syncopated marriage of intellect and feeling.” (Detroit Free Press) Weston’s honors include the George Ladd Prix de Paris from the University of California, Berkeley, the Arts and Letters Award in Music and a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and residencies from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the MacDowell Colony and a residency with Castle of our Skins at the Longy School of Music. Weston co-authored with Olly Wilson, chapter 5 in the Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington, “Duke Ellington as a Cultural Icon” published by Cambridge University Press. Weston’s work, Juba for Strings won the Sonori/New Orleans Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition. Trevor Weston won the first Emerging Black Composers Project sponsored by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the San Francisco Symphony. 

YouTube version

A list of ensembles performing Trevor Weston’s compositions include Roomful of Teeth, The Boston Children’s Chorus, St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue Choir, The Starling Chamber Orchestra, Mallarme Chamber Players, The Providence Singers, Chicago Sinfonietta, Seraphic Fire, The Tufts Chamber Chorus, Ensemble Pi, The Amernet String Quartet, The UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, The Washington Chorus, Trilogy: An Opera Company, and The Manhattan Choral Ensemble. In addition to his creative work, Weston completed the re-orchestration of Florence Price’s Piano Concerto for the Center for Black Music Research in 2010.

Episode 89: Writing Music People LIKE to Sing with Alan Bullard

For this Oxford Press conversation, I was able to speak to composer Alan Bullard about his life, career and approach to choral music. We talked about what it was like to study with Herbert Howells, the need for music for flexible voicings, the contrasting economy of sheet music sales in the US and UK, as well as his approach to “compositional imposter syndrome.” I especially enjoyed his advice to younger composers. It’s ok to promote yourselves! It’s not bragging! It’s how the business works. So, sit back, relax and get to know Alan Bullard.

Alan Bullard
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Episode 89

Alan Bullard was born in 1947, grew up in London, and studied with Herbert Howells and Antony Hopkins at the Royal College of Music, and with Arnold Whittall at Nottingham University.He has been writing music all his life, and frequently undertakes commissions for choral societies, church choirs, orchestral societies and many other ensembles. His choral music, both sacred and secular, has been performed in a wide range of venues in the UK, the USA, and elsewhere.

Many of his choral works are published by Oxford University Press, and he is the editor of, and contributor to, The Oxford Book of Flexible Anthems, The Oxford Book of Flexible Carols, the Oxford Book of Easy Flexible Anthems, and the Oxford Book of Flexible Choral Songs. His works are recorded on CD by such ensembles as Selwyn College Choir, Kings College Choir, The Sixteen, and are regularly broadcast in the UK and the US.As well as music for a wide range of ensembles and soloists, he has also written much educational music, including the Joining the Dots sight-reading series, the Scale Explorer series (both ABRSM) and, jointly with his wife Janet, the Pianoworks series (OUP).He holds an ARCM from the Royal College of Music, a BMus from London University, an MA from Nottingham University and a DU (Honorary Doctorate) from Essex University, and he lives in East Anglia.

More Oxford Conversations

Episode 76: Finding a Niche with John Rutter

Part of the Oxford Series on the Choralosophy Podcast

The next installment of the Oxford Series is THE John Rutter. We have all grown up knowing the name and legacy that John represents. In this conversation, my goal was to give you a peak behind the curtain revealing the human side of the legend. We discussed the value of choral music to the world, his growth and maturation as a composer, and what keeps his fire lit after all these years. John Rutter could stop composing today and his legacy would be established. What keeps him going? Tune in and find out! A bonus later in the episode is a man after my heart where John brings up the toxic nature of online discourse, and role choral music can play in healing.

John Rutter
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Episode 76: John Rutter

John Rutter studied music at Clare College, Cambridge and first came to notice as a composer and arranger of Christmas carols and other choral pieces during those early years; today his compositions, including such concert-length works as RequiemMagnificatMass of the ChildrenThe Gift of Life, and Visions are performed around the world.

John edits the Oxford Choral Classics series, and, with Sir David Willcocks, co-edited four volumes of Carols for Choirs. In 1983 he formed his own choir The Cambridge Singers, with whom he has made numerous recordings on the Collegium Records label, and he appears regularly in several countries as a guest conductor and choral ambassador.

John holds a Lambeth Doctorate in Music, and was awarded a CBE for services to music in 2007.

Episode 71: It’s All in the Story with Cecilia McDowall

Another Installment of the Oxford Series on the Choralosophy Podcast

Episode 71
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Cecilia McDowall has long been one of my favorite Choral composers. If I were to boil down my reasons for this it would come to her masterful ability to transport both audience and performer through space and time with her writing. In this conversation, I was able to understand a bit more about how her approach and it all became more clear. She immerses herself in a story with each work. Be a fly on the wall as we discuss her writing process, her thoughts on balancing composition, teaching and motherhood throughout her life, interactions between composer and conductor, as well as an exploration of the vulnerability one must face to sing and to compose.

More About Cecilia McDowall

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Born in London, 1951, Cecilia McDowall has won many awards, been short-listed eight times for the British Composer Awards and in 2014 won the Choral category of the British Composer Awards for her haunting work, Night Flight, which celebrates the pioneering flight of the American aviatrix, Harriet Quimby, across the English Channel. McDowall’s distinctive style speaks directly to listeners, instrumentalists and singers alike. Her most characteristic works fuse fluent melodic lines with occasional dissonant harmonies and rhythmic exuberance. Her music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs, including the BBC Singers, The Sixteen, Oxford and Cambridge choirs, Kansas City Chorale, ensembles, and at festivals worldwide.

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Recent commissions include When time is broke (Three Shakespeare Songs) for the BBC Singers and Adoro te devote for Westminster Cathedral Choir, London. Three Latin Motets were recorded by the renowned American choir, Phoenix Chorale, conductor, Charles Bruffy; this Chandos recording, Spotless Rose, won a Grammy award and was nominated for Best Classical Album. The National Children’s Choir of Great Britain commissioned a work focusing on ‘children in conflict’, called Everyday Wonders: The Girl from Aleppo. This cantata is based on the real-life escape of Nujeen Mustafa (who is wheelchair-bound) and her sister from war-torn Aleppo; it tells of their harrowing journey across 3,500 miles, through seven countries, eventually arriving in Germany with relief and great gratitude.

Episode 71 on YouTube!

In May, 2019, Wimbledon Choral Society and the Philharmonia Orchestra premiered McDowall’s large-scale choral work, the Da Vinci Requiem, to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death. The work received its first performance on 7 May in the Royal Festival Hall, London. McDowall’s works are regularly broadcast on BBC Radio and readily available on CD.

In 2013 Cecilia McDowall received an Honorary Doctorate from Portsmouth University and in 2017 McDowall was selected for an Honorary Fellow award by the Royal School of Church Music. In 2019 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from West London University. In 2021 the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, will release a CD of her choral music on the Hyperion label. In 2020 McDowall was presented with the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for ‘outstanding music collection’ for a ‘consistently excellent body of work’. This was a ‘Gift’ from The Ivors Academy (formerly the British Composers’ Academy).

Episode 66: “I Shine!” Music as Self Care with Sarah Quartel

Another Installment of the Oxford Series on the Choralosophy Podcast

I had the joy and privilege of chatting with Oxford Choral Composer, Sarah Quartel. We centered our conversation around the ideas of collaborative music making, and choral music specifically, and their ability to build community, increase well being, flourishing and growth. We ranged also to “how the sausage is made” in the Choral Publishing industry, the reality of online school for kids and more. Also, be sure to stick around and find out if I was able to convince Sarah to join a choir again soon. 🙂

Episode 66: Sarah Quartel
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Episode 66
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Canadian composer and educator Sarah Quartel is known for her fresh and exciting approach to choral music. Deeply inspired by the life-changing relationships that can occur while making choral music, Sarah writes in a way that connects singer to singer, ensemble to conductor, and performer to audience. Her works are performed by choirs across the world, and she has been commissioned by groups including the American Choral Directors Association, the National Children’s Chorus of the United States of America, and New Dublin Voices. Since 2018 she has been exclusively published by Oxford University Press, and she continues to work as a clinician and conductor at music education and choral events at home and abroad.

www.sarahquartel.com

Episode 63: “We Face People.” The Courage of the Choir with Bob Chilcott

An installment of the Oxford Series on the Choralosophy Podcast

In choral music, in a different way than in other types of music making, WE ARE the instrument. This creates a unique vulnerability within choral music. If my saxophone is flat, I can fix the ligature, and EXTERNALIZE the problem. With singers, we must still fix technical things, but we can’t escape INTERNALIZING the problem. In a profound way, the same reason many are attracted to singing, is the reason many are also afraid of it. There is power in conquering that fear.

In this open conversation, renowned composer, arranger and long time King’s Singer Bob Chilcott and I discuss performance anxiety, the unique properties of choral music, his transitions between performer and conductor, and much more. This conversation is a must listen!

Episode 63: Bob Chilcott
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Episode 63

Learn More About Bob and His Music!

As a composer, conductor, and singer, Bob Chilcott has enjoyed a lifelong association with choral music, first as a chorister and choral scholar in the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and for 12 years as a member of the King’s Singers.  He became a full-time composer in 1997, and has produced a large catalogue of music for all types of choirs which is published by Oxford University Press.  His most often performed pieces include Can you hear me?A Little Jazz MassRequiem, and the St John Passion.

Bob has conducted choirs in more than 30 countries worldwide and has worked with many thousands of amateur singers across the UK in a continuing series of Singing Days. For seven years he was conductor of the Chorus of The Royal College of Music in London and since 2002 he has been Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Singers. In 2017 Bob was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by The Royal School of Church Music and in 2019 takes up the role of Principal Conductor Birmingham University Singers.

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His music has been widely recorded by leading British choirs and groups including The King’s Singers, King’s College, Cambridge, Wells Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, The Sixteen, Tenebrae, The BBC Singers, The Bach Choir, Commotio, and Ora. In 2016 he enjoyed a collaboration with the celebrated singer Katie Melua on the album In Winter.  In 2017 two new discs were released by Commotio and Choralis – All Good Things on Naxos, and In Winter’s Arms on Signum, his first recording collaboration with an American choir.  Newer recording projects are with the BBC Singers, Houston Chamber Choir, and Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir.

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Episode 61: Give Me Some Humanity! With Will Todd

Part of the Oxford Series on the Choralosophy Podcast

Join us in this thought provoking and jovial conversation in which Will and I discuss a comparison of the US and UK music education paradigms, his approach to the creative process, and the possible pitfalls of training “sight reading machines.” While this can result in singers with world class ability, it can also result in performances that, at times can lack humanity. We also discuss the influences on his music made by his eclectic listening tastes growing up. How do we stay connected to the humanity in the music making?

Be sure to visit Will’s Website!
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Episode 61

English composer Will Todd is well known for his beautiful and exciting music. His work encompasses choral works large and small, opera, musical theatre and orchestral pieces, as well as jazz compositions and chamber works.

His anthem, The Call of Wisdom, was performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations with a TV audience of 45 million people. His breakthrough work, Mass in Blue (originally titled Jazz Mass), has been performed hundreds of times all over the world. His arrangement of Amazing Grace was performed at President Obama’s Inauguration Day prayer service in 2013 and as part of the BBC’s Nelson Mandela Thanksgiving Service.

He has collaborated with award winning choirs The Sixteen and Tenebrae, as well as with the Welsh National Opera, Opera North, Opera Holland Park, BBC Singers, BBC Concert Orchestra, The Halle Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, The Bach Choir, St Martin’s Voices.

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His discography includes best selling choral discs Lux Et Veritas and The Call of Wisdom, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Mass in Blue, Ode to a Nightingale, Passion Music and Jazz Missa Brevis all on the Signum Classic label. His clarinet concerto recorded by the BBC Concert Orchestra and Emma Johnson was released in 2016His music is regularly broadcast on Classic FM, as well as on BBC Radio 3.

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Will Todd’s music is valued for its melodic intensity and harmonic skill, often incorporating jazz colours, and his choral music is much in demand from amateur as well as professional performers.

Recent commissions include an oratorio for The Bach Choir written with former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen and operas for Welsh National Opera and Opera North.

Episode 57: Working Between Worlds with Reena Esmail

The Oxford Series on the Choralosophy Podcast!

Reena Esmail is currently the composer in residence for the LA Master Chorale and the composer of TaReKiTa published by Oxford University Press. Reena works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music, to bring communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces and holds degrees from Juilliard and Yale. In this engaging discussion, I had the opportunity not only to help you get to know Reena, but also to get her perspective on many critical issues facing the classical music community. We discussed:

And much more! This was a VERY fun conversation! So be sure to tune in!

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Episode 57

www.reenaesmail.com

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.

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