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Sarah Kirkland Snider

Princeton, NJ            

Recently deemed “one of the decade’s more gifted, up-and-coming modern classical composers” (Pitchfork) and “a potentially significant voice on the American music landscape” (David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer), composer Sarah Kirkland Snider writes music of direct expression and vivid narrative that has been hailed as “rapturous” (The New York Times), “haunting” (The Los Angeles Times), and “strikingly beautiful” (Time Out New York). With an ear for both the structural and the poetic, Snider’s music draws upon a variety of influences to render a nuanced command of immersive storytelling. Of her orchestral song cycle, Penelope, Pitchfork‘s Jayson Greene proclaimed: “Snider’s music lives in…an increasingly populous inter-genre space that, as of yet, has produced only a few clear, confident voices. Snider is perhaps the most sophisticated of them all.”

Snider’s works have been commissioned and performed by some of the most prestigious orchestras, ensembles, and soloists throughout the world, including the San Francisco, Detroit, Indianapolis, and North Carolina Symphonies; the Residentie Orkest Den Haag, American Composers Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony; violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, percussionist Colin Currie, and vocalist Shara Nova (formerly Worden); Ensemble Signal, The Knights, yMusic; Roomful of Teeth, Cantus, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus; and many others. Conductors who have championed her work include Edwin Outwater, Andre dé Ridder, and Rossen Milanov. Her music has been heard at concert halls around the world including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Brooklyn Academy of Music, and at festivals such as BAM Next Wave, Aspen, Ecstatic, Colorado, Sundance, BAM’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Bang On a Can Summer, Liquid Music, 21C Liederabend, SONiC, New York Festival of Song, and Zurich’s Apples & Olives. Penelope, her song cycle for mezzo and orchestra (or chamber ensemble), has been performed over forty times in the United States and Europe.

Recent premieres include Something for the Dark, commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (“an imposing achievement…a veritable master class in the craft of contemporary music composition”—Classical Voice of America); Hiraeth, a large work for full orchestra with film by Mark DeChiazza, co-commissioned by the North Carolina Symphony and Princeton Symphony Orchestra (“Snider’s command of the orchestra is fantastic…an engrossing composition”—Indy Week); and the BAM Next Wave Festival presentation of Ouroboros, part of an immersive multimedia installation collaboration for the Young People’s Chorus of New York and ACME. Current projects include a work for violin and piano commissioned by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers; Requiem for the Endangered, a mass for Trinity Wall Street Choir and NOVUS, conducted by Julian Wachner; a new collaborative commission for female vocalist and string orchestra; and an opera co-commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects and Opera Cabal.

The 16/17 season will feature some exciting premieres and performances of Snider’s work. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra will give the U.S. premiere of Unremembered with Padma Newsome, Shara Nova, and D.M. Stith at its acclaimed Liquid Music series. Nova, Newsome, and Stith will also tour Unremembered in the U.S. and in Holland and Belgium with the Doelen Ensemble, as part of the Cross-Linx Festival. The North Carolina Symphony will perform both Unremembered and Hiraeth, Snider’s large work for orchestra and film (by Mark DeChiazza), at the Kennedy Center as part of its invitation to the SHIFT Festival. Other season highlights include the world premieres of a new work for violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and a collaborative commission for female vocalist and string orchestra.

September 2015 saw the critically-acclaimed release of Snider’s second full-length album, Unremembered, on New Amsterdam Records. An hour-long, thirteen-part song cycle for seven voices, chamber orchestra, and electronics, Unremembered was inspired by poems and illustrations by writer/visual artist Nathaniel Bellows and features vocalists Padma Newsome (Clogs), Shara Nova (My Brightest Diamond), and D.M. Stith, as well as the Unremembered Orchestra (members of Alarm Will Sound, ICE, The Knights, and So Percussion), conducted by Edwin Outwater. A meditation on memory, innocence, and the haunted grandeur of the natural world, Unremembered recalls strange and beautiful happenings experienced during a childhood in rural Massachusetts. An “intricately magical landscape” (Justin Davidson, New York Magazine) and “a deeply personal, brave work” (I Care If You Listen), Unremembered “attests to Ms. Snider’s thorough command of musical mood setting” (The New York Times), and was declared “one of the most significant and harrowing releases of the year” (Thought Catalog); “mysterious and unsettling, [with a] fresh, instinctive way with voices that sets her apart from most of her peers” (The Washington Post); “masterful…a stunning, immensely rewarding experience” (PopMatters); “evocative and strangely beautiful” (Opera News); “warped and eerie” (NPR Songs We Love); and “a glimpse into an entirely new sound world” (Indy Week). Unremembered was named to dozens of Best-Of-2015 lists internationally including The Washington Post (Top Five), The Nation (Top Five), The Boston Globe’s Steve Smith, The Guardian’s Seth Colter Walls, WNYC, and New Music Box. It was also named one of the 50 Best Classical Works of the Past Twenty Years by Q2 Radio listeners.

In 2010, Snider released her first album, Penelope, a J. Paul Getty Center-commissioned song cycle with lyrics by playwright Ellen McLaughlin, featuring vocalist Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) and Ensemble Signal, conducted by Brad Lubman, on New Amsterdam Records. Acclaimed as “ravishingly melancholy” (The New York Times), “the year’s most affecting creation” (Time Out New York), and “a gorgeous piece of music and hauntingly vivid psychological portrait” (Pitchfork), Penelope was named No. 1 Classical Album of 2010 by Time Out New York and one of NPR’s Top Five Genre-Defying Albums of 2010, and received dozens of other year-end best-of citations internationally, including eMusic, textura, WNYC, and The Huffington Post, who named “The Lotus Eaters” one of the Top Ten Alternative Art Songs of The Decade. Charting on both the CMJ 200 and the top ten of Billboard’s Crossover Classical list, Penelope also drew high praise from The Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, The Believer, New Music Box, and many others, with Pitchfork writing: “No matter what perspective you bring to this album, it bears profound rewards.”

Snider’s music can also be found on the 2014 Grammy-Award winning eponymous album by vocal octet Roomful of Teeth; yMusic’s debut record, Beautiful Mechanical; NOW Ensemble‘s third album, Dreamfall; and pianist Michael Mizrahi’s sophomore release, Currents. Forthcoming recordings of Snider’s music will include “Psalm of the Soil,” written for and recorded by Cantus, and “The Currents,” recorded by pianist Nicholas Phillips.

In addition to her work as a composer, Snider is a passionate advocate for new music in New York and beyond. From 2001 to 2007, she co-curated the Look & Listen Festival, a new music series set in New York modern art galleries. Since 2007 she has served as Co-Director, along with William Brittelle and Judd Greenstein, of New Amsterdam Records, a Brooklyn-based independent record label recently called “the focal point of the post-classical scene,” (Time Out New York) and “emblematic of an emerging generation” (The New York Times), and praised for “releasing one quality disc after another” (Newsweek). In 2011, New Amsterdam created a separate, non-profit organization for its presenting work, entitled New Amsterdam Presents.

Born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, Snider has an M.M. and Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. In 2006 she was a Schumann Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival. The 2013 winner of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award, Snider has also received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Jerome Composers Commissioning Fund, New Music USA, and Opera America; Yale School of Music prizes; numerous young composer honors; and in 2011, was spotlighted in the NPR feature “100 Composers Under 40.” Her teachers included Martin Bresnick, Marc-Andre Dalbavie, Justin Dello Joio, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra Laderman, David Lang, and Christopher Rouse. She splits her time between New York and Princeton, where she lives with her husband, Steven; son, Jasper; and daughter, Dylan.

Her music is published by G. Schirmer.

Articles by Sarah Kirkland Snider:

NewMusicBox May 17 2017 | By Sarah Kirkland Snider
Candy Floss and Merry-Go-Rounds: Female Composers, Gendered Language, and Emotion

Problematic gender messaging—in academia, the media, and the culture at large—can toxify the soil in which young musicians hope to grow their careers. Too many female composers drop out as...

NewMusicBox April 2 2012 | By Sarah Kirkland Snider
Sound Ideas: Prompt #3

Imagine you're at a new music concert. The artist or ensemble performing is really great, but they open with a few pieces that don't speak to you. Everything seems grey....