Sara Kirkland Snider ~ Composer of Music
Biography

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, piercing melancholy” (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 Haag, St. Paul Chamber 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 in concert halls around the world including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center, and at festivals such as Big EarsBAM Next Wave, Aspen, Ecstatic, Colorado, Cross-linx, 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.

The 2017/2018 season will see the world premiere and tour of The Blue Hour, an evening-length collaborative song cycle for A Far Cry string orchestra and vocalist Luciana Souza, as well as the world premiere of Mass for the Endangered, a commission for Trinity Wall Street Choir and NOVUS NY, conducted by Julian Wachner, on text by Nathaniel Bellows, as part of their Mass Re-Imaginings project. In October, Sarah will be Composer-in-Residence at the 2017 Bowling Green New Music and Art Festival, where several of her works will be performed by Latitude 49, the Bowling Green New Music Ensemble, and the Bowling Green Orchestra. In March, she will be guest artist in a residency at SUNY Fredonia’s Ethos New Music Society. Other season highlights include the UK premiere of her acclaimed song cycle Penelope with mezzo-soprano Jessica Walker and Psappha; a Britten Sinfonia performance of her chamber work Pale As Centuries at London’s Wigmore Hall; the New York Philharmonic’s CONTACT series performance of her chamber work Thread and Fray; the 21st Century Consort’s performance of excerpts from her song cycle, Unremembered; and the North Carolina Symphony’s performance of her orchestral work, Something for the DarkIn the meantime, Sarah will pursue work on O Ecclesia, an opera co-commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects and Opera Cabal, among other projects.

The 2016/2017 season highlights included the U.S./European tour of her acclaimed orchestral song cycle, Unremembered, in which idiosyncratic vocalists Padma NewsomeShara Nova, and D.M. Stith gave twelve full performances at venues including Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival with The Knights, Liquid Music with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the SHIFT Festival with North Carolina Symphony, and Holland’s Cross-linx Festival with the Doelen Ensemble and Codarts Rotterdam. Also in 2017, the North Carolina Symphony performed Hiraeth, a large, personal work for full orchestra with film by Mark DeChiazza, at the Kennedy Center; the Louisville Orchestra and soprano Susan Narucki performed selections from Sarah’s song cycle Penelope; the UK-based Chineke! Orchestra and soprano Nicole Jordan performed excerpts of Unremembered at Classical NEXT international new music forum; and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Leonard Slatkin reprised, at the League of American Orchestras Conference, its 2016 performance of Something for the Dark, a work it commissioned in 2015 when Sarah won the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award. Other recent premieres include the BAM Next Wave Festival presentation of Ouroboros, part of an immersive multimedia installation for the Young People’s Chorus of New York and ACME, and Psalm of the Soil, for Cantus vocal ensemble.

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); “oft-rapturous, characterized by immense poise and sophistication“ (textura); 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; pianist Michael Mizrahi’s sophomore release, Currents and pianist Nicholas Phillips’s record ImpressionsForthcoming recordings of Snider’s music will include Psalm of the Soil, written for and recorded by Cantus, and The Reserved, the Reticent, a solo cello piece recorded by Caitlin Sullivan 

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; in 2017, New Amsterdam revamped its model to function as an all-in-one non-profit record label, presenter, and artist service organization.

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, as well as Yale School of Music prizes and young composer honors. She was recently named one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” by The Washington Post, 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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