Emma Jayakumar

Emma Jayakumar is an Australian composer of opera, ballet and chamber music. A gifted singer, Emma has been the recipient of several high profile Australian singing competitions (Herald Sun Aria, Vienna State Opera Award), studied classical voice at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and has performed internationally in the UK and Europe, pursuing composition professionally in 2010 with the creation and premiere of her touring work Rather Beastly (2011). Emma holds a practice-led PhD in composition from WAAPA (2015-2018) and has become a sought-after composer of specially devised works for young audiences, including major commissions for the West Australian Ballet (The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie), MusicBook Stories (Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, Just Larking About) the ABC (Bell Birds Suite for String Quartet) and West Australian Opera (Our Little Inventor premiere in October 2022) . 

In 2021, Emma was nominated for a WA Performing Arts Award (Best Composition) for her work on The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie for WA Ballet.

Recent Chamber & Orchestral Works: In August 2022, Emma premieres her first orchestral song cycle for the soprano Rachelle Durkin and the Darwin Symphony Orchestra. In April/May 2021, Emma completed work on the creative development of score for the DGLSCI funded theatre show The Big Sea, an intimate account of one woman’s experience with breast cancer. Featuring renowned soprano Emma Matthews, this show is formulated around text by Frances Barbe (based on her personal journey of breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival) and Mel Cantwell (director/dramaturg). In 2020, Emma received a coveted ABC Fresh Start commission to compose a string quartet for the Darlington Quartet. This piece is a semi-programmatic work based around Henry Kendall’s poem, Bell Birds, recorded by the ABC in late 2020 for broadcast on ABC Classic FM in February/March 2021. 

As composer/performer Emma has recorded song cycles Sky in the Pie!Fox and 3 Folksong Arrangements, with the Chimera Trio. She has also completed several instrumental commissions for the Chimera ensemble including 3 pieces for piano trio and the piano quintet Beyond the Wall Suite, which was recorded in a live concert by the ABC, and has been subsequently broadcast frequently on ABC Classic FM.

Children’s and family work: In October 2022 Emma will premiere a new full length opera for family audiences Our Little Inventor with West Australian Opera, for which she also co-wrote the libretto with author Sher Rill Ng. Emma has completed several commissions for young audiences, including May Gibbs’ classiThe Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie with choreographer/director Andries Weidemann for WA Ballet and an operatic adaptation for MusicBook Stories of Mem Fox’s picture book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge in 2020/1. A champion of quality and engaging works for young audiences, Emma began writing original and child-centric works in 2010, with a DCA and Healthway funded touring show Rather Beastly, a comic opera that reached approximately 3000 school children around metropolitan Perth in 2011. Emma completed a practice-led PhD research project in composition in 2018, entailing the creation of an original opera Beyond the Wall for children and family audiences. This project was subsequently awarded the 2018 WAAPA Research Medal for most outstanding research thesis.