Sara Kirkland Snider ~ Composer of Music

Photograph by Willy Somma

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 the poetic and a careful attention to detail, Snider’s music draws upon a variety of influences to foreground nuanced and immersive storytelling. Of her orchestral song cycle, PenelopePitchfork‘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 has received commissions and performances internationally from the San Francisco Symphony, the Detroit Symphony OrchestraResidentie Orkest Den Haag, the North Carolina Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra; violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, percussionist Colin Currie, and vocalist Shara Nova (formerly Worden); Ensemble Signal, The KnightsyMusic, GVSU New Music EnsemblePsappha, and Hebrides EnsembleRoomful of TeethCantus, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus; and many others. Conductors who have championed her work include Edwin OutwaterAndre 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, SundanceBAM’s Crossing Brooklyn FerryBang On a Can Summer, Liquid Music21C 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, a 12-minute work for full orchestra about resilience and renewal, 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 29-minute work for full orchestra about family history and notions of home, 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 entitled Epiphany 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, to be announced; and The Living Light, an opera co-commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects and Opera Cabal.

The 16/17 season will feature some thrilling 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 Holland—with the Doelen Ensemble as part of the genre-defying Cross-Linx Festival—and will perform the work in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. with the North Carolina Symphony, as part of its participation in the SHIFT Festival, which will also feature a performance of Snider’s 29-minute work for orchestra and film, Hiraeth. Additional performances of Unremembered will also take place in the U.S., to be announced. 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 (to be announced), and a special performance of her new work for Pierrot ensemble + percussion, You Are Free, at the Kennedy Center.

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…deft, subtle” (The New York Times), and was declared “one of the most significant and harrowing releases of the year” (Thought Catalog); “terrifying and tender, [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…harmonically probing, impressively layered” (Opera News); “warped and eerie” (NPR); 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, textura, New Music Box, and I Care If You Listen. 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 eMusictextura, 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 TimesNew York Magazine, The BelieverThe Utne ReaderNew 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 MechanicalNOW 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 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 ArtsJerome Composers Commissioning FundNew 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 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; son, Jasper; and daughter, Dylan.

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