Sara Kirkland Snider ~ Composer of Music

Photograph by Willy Somma

Recently deemed “among the brightest lights to emerge in recent seasons” (Time Out New York) and “a potentially significant voice on the American music landscape” (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 the poetic and a careful attention to detail, Snider’s music draws upon a variety of influences to prioritize nuanced and immersive storytelling. Of her orchestral song cycle, PenelopePitchfork 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.”

The 2013 winner of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award, Snider has received commissions and performances internationally from ACME, the American Composers Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Cantus, percussionist Colin Currie, the Detroit Symphony OrchestraEnsemble SignalFirebird EnsembleThe Hague Philharmonic, Hebrides Ensemble, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, the Knights, the North Carolina SymphonyPsapphaRoomful of TeethVoltivocalist Shara WordenyMusic, and many others. Conductors who have championed her work include Andre dé Ridder, Rossen Milanov, and Edwin Outwater. Her music has been heard at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Brooklyn Academy of Music; venerable rock clubs like The Bell House and Paard van Troje; theatrical spaces such as the Red Bull Theater and Playmakers Repertory; and art spaces such as MoMA, the Getty Center, and MASS MoCA. Her works have also been featured in festivals such as Aspen, Ecstatic, Colorado, SundanceBAM’s Crossing Brooklyn FerryBang On a Can Summer, Liquid MusicMATA, CarlsbadLook & Listen, 21C Liederabend, SONiC, New York Festival of Song, and Apples & Olives. Her critically-acclaimed song cycle for mezzo and orchestra (or chamber ensemble), Penelope, has been performed forty-two times, in the United States and Europe; (“Every orchestra should play this piece right now,” proclaims Edwin Outwater.) 

The ’14/’15 season includes many exciting collaborations and projects. In February 2015, the American Composers Orchestra will perform a new orchestration of three songs from Unremembered with Shara Worden at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, a performance that Worden will give with the North Carolina Symphony on three nights in April and with the San Francisco Symphony in July. The NOW Ensemble will perform Pale As Centuries at the Lincoln Center Atrium, a work that will be featured on their upcoming third album, to be released on New Amsterdam Records in June 2015. yMusic will perform Daughter of the Waves as part of The Measure of All Things, a film collaboration with Sam Green, at The Kitchen, Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, and Duke Performances. During this time, Snider will be at work on commissions for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; the North Carolina Symphony and Princeton Symphony Orchestra; the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble; and the Young People’s Chorus of New York. July 2015 will see the release of her second full-length album, Unremembered, a 13-song cycle for seven voices and chamber orchestra about strange and beautiful happenings experienced during a childhood in rural New England, inspired by poetry and art by Nathaniel Bellows. Commissioned by Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Center for the Ecstatic Music Festival, which offered a live preview of the cycle in February 2013, Unremembered features vocalists Padma Newsome (Clogs), D.M. Stith, and Shara Worden; was conducted by Edwin Outwaterand will release on New Amsterdam Records. Of the cycle’s live preview, The New York Times wrote: “The work attested to Ms. Snider’s thorough command of musical mood setting, organically integrating the structural economy and direct impact of pop songs with deft, subtle orchestrations that lent emotional gravity and nuance.”

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 eMusictextura, WNYC, Der Schallplattenmann sagt (Germany), Indie Rock Magazine (France) 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 TimesNew York Magazine, The Chicago ReaderThe Denver PostThe OregonianThe New Haven AdvocateThe BelieverThe Utne ReaderNew Music Box, and many others, with Pitchfork‘s Jayson Greene writing: “No matter what perspective you bring to this album, it bears profound rewards.” In 2011, Snider was one of three composers whose photograph graced the NPR feature “100 Composers Under 40.” Snider’s music can also be found on the 2014 Grammy-Award winning eponymous album by Roomful of Teeth, and the critically-acclaimed debut recording by yMusic. May 2015 will see the release of her work, Pale As Centuries, on NOW Ensemble‘s third album, Dreamfall

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 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. Snider has received the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award, grants from the Jerome Composers Commissioning Fund and New Music USA; Yale School of Music prizes; and numerous young composer honors. Her teachers included Martin Bresnick, Marc-Andre DalbavieJustin Dello Joio, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra LadermanDavid Lang, and Christopher Rouse. She splits her time between New York and Princeton, where she lives with her husband, Steven, and their two young children, Jasper and Dylan.

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