Born in 1980, Esra Berkman graduated from Yıldız Technical University, Department of Music and Performing Arts in 2004 with a major in the Music Ensembles’ division of Kanun. A student of Ruhi Ayangil, Esra completed her master’s degree in Art and Design in the Institute of Social Sciences, Yildiz Teknik University in 2007 with a thesis entitled: “Viewing 20th Century kanun art in the context of the thoughts and Approaches of five kanun players who learned to play using an autodidactic method”. She also received an MFA degree from the same institution with her thesis entitled: “Kanun Virtuoso, Composer and Educator Khachatur Avetisian (1926-1996) and Conversion of Music in the Context of Kanun Instrument in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic” (2012). Within the same framework, she carried out research on Armenian kanun repertoire with Khachatur Avetisyan’s students Anahit Valesyan (Gyumri Conservatory) and Karine Hovhannisyan (Yerevan State Komitas Conservatory).
Esra Berkman participated as a trainee in the “International Qanun Meeting” held by MediMuses in Beirut in January 2003, attending master classes offered by Apostolos Tsardakas, Imane Homsy, Emile Haddad, and Erol Deran. She presented her first recital in Beirut at Saint Joseph Hall. Between 2004-2010, she organized nine meetings for kanun players under the name “The Kanun Circle” moderated by Ruhi Ayangil. She recorded on kanun for the CD project “Şimdi Hatırda Mıdır? / Şarkılar ve Saz Eserleri” (Can It Be Remembered Now? / Songs and Instrumental Music), produced under the art direction of Nevzat Sümer in 2007. She worked as répétiteur in the Yildiz Teknik University’s Cumhuriyet Choir in 2004-2009, and as kanun player at Ayangil Turkish Music Orchestra in 2006–2008. She also played the kanun part for Selman Ada’s Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves Opera performed by Istanbul State Opera and Ballet Orchestra in the 2006–2007 season.
Berkman has performed Khachatur Avetisyan’s compositions for kanun and piano many times in Turkey and abroad with the Kanun Piano Duo she founded in 2008. In response to Berkman’s commissions, five contemporary composers, Tolga Zafer Özdemir, Enis Gümüş, Uğraş Durmuş, Onur Türkmen and Semih Korucu composed and/or transcribed music for her Kanun Piano Duo. The duo received their certificate from conductor Nvart Andreassian’s master class in chamber music at the YTU Vedat Kosal Music Research Centre in 2010. The Duo is released an album “Uyanış” (Awakening). Since 2008, Berkman has been playing concerts in Turkey and abroad with Kanun Piano Duo. As a Duo, she plays with pianist Lilian Tonella Tüzün since 2018.
Berkman performed Hasan Uçarsu’s chamber music composition “Eski İstanbul’un Arka Sokaklarında” (In the Back Streets of Old Istanbul) at the İlhan Usmanbaş Hall in MIAM in Istanbul Technical University in 2009 and at Pera Museum in 2016 with the contemporary music ensemble Diskant Ensemble; and played kanun on Evrim Demirel’s “Anadolu’dan Dört Halk Türküsü” (Four Folk Songs from Anatolia) with Istanbul Contemporary Music Ensemble on the audio recording “Masallar, Rüyalar, Fısıltılar” (Tales, Dreams, Whispers) by the piano player Birsen Ulucan.
Berkman has been collaborating with Hezarfen Ensemble since 2015 and is currently a collaborator on the European Research Council-funded research project Beyond East and West: Developing and Documenting an Evolving Transcultural Musical Practice.
She is the author of the book “Kanun Music in Soviet Armenia and Khachatur Avetisian” published by Turkey Scholars’ Books, and has released a recording entitled “Uyanış” (Awakening) from KALAN Music in 2013 featuring Armenian composer Avetisian’s works for kanun and piano. Berkman has publications in various Turkish and international academic journals and currently holds asssociate professor position at the Department of Turkish Music at Anadolu University State Conservatory in Eskisehir, Turkey. In 2017, She founded two ensembles in the Conservatory, one has traditional maqamic music origin, Anadolu Makam, and the other is Anadolu Contempoary Music Ensemble conducting by Murat Göktaş which has the repertories of contemporary composers such as Berkant Gençkal, Evrim Demirel and Semih Korucu.