Composers Festival spotlight: Nina Shekhar

Resident composer Nina Shekhar is a first generation Indian American who grew up in Detroit and now lives in New Jersey, where she is pursuing her PhD in composition at Princeton University.

She previously completed composition graduate studies at the University of Southern California and undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, earning dual degrees in composition and chemical engineering.

Shekhar (pictured) has the unusual distinction of having three of her pieces programmed as part of the 2021 MICF. The new work she wrote as a resident composer, “Turn Your Feet Around,” will be performed by Alarm Will Sound as part of the “World Premieres II” online concert on Saturday, July 31.

In addition, her composition “Don’t Beat a Word” will be performed by Khemia Ensemble during the “Mizzou New Music” online concert on Wednesday, July 28, and “[redact]” will be presented as part of the ANTiCX event “Entry Points of Empathy” on Friday, July 30. (Shekhar is only the second composer to have three works performed during one year of the MICF; the first was resident composer inti figgis-vizueta in 2019.)

Her other recent and upcoming events include performances by the New York Philharmonic, LA Philharmonic (with soloists Nathalie Joachim and Pamela Z), Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and New World Symphony. More current projects include commissions for the Grand Rapids Symphony, Albany Symphony, The Crossing, 45th Parallel Universe Chamber Orchestra (sponsored by GLFCAM), saxophonist Timothy McAllister, and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) (sponsored by LA Phil and New Music USA).

Shekhar’s music has been commissioned and performed by leading artists including Eighth Blackbird, International Contemporary Ensemble, LA Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, JACK Quartet, and many more. Her work has been featured at venues including Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walt Disney Concert Hall (LA Phil’s Noon to Midnight), Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, National Sawdust, and numerous others.

Shekhar recently was appointed as the 2021-2023 Composer-in-Residence for Young Concert Artists. She also is the recipient of the 2021 Rudolf Nissim Prize; two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, in 2015 and 2019; and the 2018 ASCAP Foundation Leonard Bernstein Award.

An active educator, Shekhar is a composer teaching artist fellow for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and is on faculty at the Idyllwild Arts Academy and Brightwork newmusic‘s Project Beacon initiative. She also has held composition residencies at Western Michigan University and Portland State University, and recently served as an inaugural debut fellow of the Young Musicians Foundation, mentored by violinist and social activist Vijay Gupta.

In addition to composing, Shekhar also works as a flutist, pianist, and saxophonist. She has performed in the Detroit International Jazz Festival and as a soloist with the USC Thornton Symphony and the Lublin Philharmonic in the Poland International Piano Festival.

You can hear samples of Nina Shekhar’s music on her SoundCloud page and in the embedded players below.

“red,” recorded February 23, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, featuring the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, with Robert Walker (oboe), Yasmina Spiegelberg (clarinet), Jessica Maxfield (alto sax), Benjamin Mitchell (bass clarinet), and Nick Akdag (bassoon).

Cajón,” performed in March 2021 by Barry Gold (cello).

“DEAR ABBY,” recorded in August 2020 as part of Dogs of Desire’s series “Hot w/Mustard.”