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 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, 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’s works have been commissioned and performed by some of the most prestigious orchestras, ensembles, and soloists throughout the world, including the San FranciscoDetroit, Indianapolis, and North Carolina Symphonies; the Residentie Orkest Den HaagAmerican Composers Orchestra, and National Arts Centre Orchestra; violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, percussionist Colin Currie, and vocalist Shara Nova (formerly Worden); Ensemble Signal, The KnightsyMusicRoomful 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 the Kennedy Center, 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, 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 Requiem for the Endangered, a mass for Trinity Wall Street Choir and NOVUS NY, conducted by Julian Wachner; a collaborative song cycle for A Far Cry; and an opera co-commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects and Opera Cabal.

The 16/17 season features some exciting premieres and performances of Snider’s work. March 2017 will feature a tour in the U.S. and Europe of Snider’s acclaimed song cycle, Unremembered. Vocalists Padma NewsomeShara Nova, and D.M. Stith will join the Doelen Ensemble and Codarts Rotterdam for the European premiere of the cycle at the Cross-Linx Festival as well as additional performances in Holland and Belgium. They will then join the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for the full U.S. premiere at its acclaimed Liquid Music series, to be followed by performances with The Knights at Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival and Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, and performances with the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh, NC, and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. The North Carolina Symphony will perform Hiraeth, Snider’s large work for orchestra and film, at the Kennedy Center as part of its invitation to the SHIFT Festival. The Louisville Orchestra will perform excerpts from Penelope with soprano Susan Narucki in April, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will perform Something for the Dark with Maestro Leonard Slatkin in June.

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. Hailed as “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 “cements her reputation–begun with 2010’s Penelope–as the finest composer for voice of her generation” (Agit Reader.) Declared “Snider’s own brand of New England gothic that would make Edgar Allan Poe proud” (The Washington Post), Unremembered was also called “one of the most significant and harrowing releases of the year” (Thought Catalog); “masterful…a stunning, immensely rewarding experience” (PopMatters); “evocative and strangely beautiful” (Opera News); “warped and eerie” (NPR Songs We Love); “luminous, otherworldly, and brilliantly individualistic (New York Music Daily); 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 SmithThe Guardian’s Seth Colter WallsWNYC, and New Music Box. It was also named one of the 50 Best Classical Works of the Past Twenty Years by Q2 Radio listeners (2015, 2016.)

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 BelieverNew 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 Arts, New Music USA, Opera America, the Sorel Organization, and the Jerome Composers Commissioning Fund; Yale School of Music prizes; 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 lives in Princeton with her husband, Steven; son, Jasper; and daughter, Dylan.

Her music is published by G. Schirmer.

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