Global Musical Modernisms is a forum for all forms of music received and appropriated as “modern” in any location around the globe, crossing the boundaries of post/tonality and musical genres. The focus is on art, avant-garde, experimental, modernist, and popular music, by global (African, Middle Eastern, Central/ South/ Southeast/ East Asian, Latin American, Australasian etc.) music-makers, minority music-makers from the West, and music-makers from the peripheries of Europe and North America.

Mari Esabel Valverde

Contact email:


Award-winning composer Mari Esabel Valverde has been commissioned by the American Choral Directors Association, Boston Choral Ensemble, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, Resonance Ensemble of Portland, Oregon, Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses, and the Texas Music Educators Association. She has worked as composer-in-residence with the International Orange Chorale of San Francisco and is scheduled to work as composer-in-residence with Choral Chameleon and Boston Children’s Chorus.

She has also built a reputation as a singer, writer, educator, adjudicator, and translator. She currently sings on the rosters of Dallas Chamber Choir, EXIGENCE Vocal Ensemble, and Pasión—Río Grande Valley’s Professional Choir. Following six years as a high school classical voice instructor, she spent two years specializing in transgender voice training. Proficient in Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese, she has translated numerous vocal works and documents including a phonetic guide of Ravel’s opera L’Enfant et les Sortilèges and is regularly consulted as a language coach.

A native of Texas, she holds degrees from St. Olaf College, the European American Musical Alliance in Paris, France, and San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, the American Choral Directors Association, and Chorus America.

Pronouns: she/her.

Being a QTBIPOC composer:

Being a Chicana, openly transgender composer, I have repeatedly attracted particular collaborative projects. Music organizations that emphasize education, diverse representation, and causes for social justice have commissioned me to compose music around transgender experience and topics such as colonialism and racism. While I am proud of the work I have done, I realize the necessity of deconstructing my own internalized anti-Blackness, classism, and misogyny. To be specific, because my perspective is limited, I must make clear that I do not have all the answers and instead defer to those even more marginalized than me when it is possible.

Part of my journey navigating the career of music composition is realizing the privileges I have had and the privileges that I thought I had that I do not actually have. Reflecting on my identity, I like to say: “I am a transgender Latina woman. I was supposed to be a sex worker, not a composer.” According to public opinion, being transgender might look like putting clothing on in order to hide “who I really am” underneath my clothes, but I will tell you it is indeed the opposite. Being openly transgender means exposing the most vulnerable layer of who I am.

It has taken a long time for white cis male colleagues to treat me with the same reverence that they do other white cis male colleagues. Because I was sheltered as a child, and because my parents did not tell me about the racism they faced as young people until I was an adult, it has taken a long time for me to regard myself as worthy of the career I have worked hard to have. I am not even certain that I am aware of all the implicit biases that have held me back from flourishing as a composer.

List of works:

Recording: Our Phoenix (2016).

The score for Our Phoenix is available for purchase at USD 2.25 through Valverde’s website:

In a time when trans people are more visible than ever, we know that, just since the start of 2015, over 20 transgender Americans have been reported murdered at the hands of impassioned cowards. We also know that approximately 40% of trans Americans are documented to have attempted suicide. There are many obstacles for our LGBTQ family, and while it is not constructive to compare them by their gravities, we must acknowledge the egregious undervaluing of our trans population.

“Our Phoenix” is ours because we, the people, the queer population and our allies, all of us share this life-struggle. When one stripe of our rainbow is denied the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, when we are targeted and harassed, assaulted, or pushed beyond the edge of mortality, the impact comes back for everyone. We only have ourselves to hold accountable, and our response will set the tone for the generations who survive us.

My inspiration and strategy for this composition derive from the words “clay,” “phoenix,” “burning,” “bright,” “beyond survival,” “loving,” and “victory.” The mention of “clay” is a metaphor for humus, the stuff from which our spiritual humanity was formed; “burning” suggests an, albeit, hazardous process of forging us into something that will endure; and the “phoenix”—from the Greek Φοίνιξ—is an allusion to the incandescent bird that, in its rebirth, rises from the ashes to exist and persist forever.

The work is undoubtedly a lamentation, an outcry, and a rousing to a movement for equality. We must demand more from ourselves for ourselves and for those who follow us. Let us, then, be like the phoenix and rise.

The original poem by Amir Rabiyah, on which Our Phoenix is based, can be found here:

(For audio recordings of Valverde’s other music, visit


Composer’s website:



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