Sarah Kirkland Snider

b. 1973

American

Summary

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider writes music of direct expression and vivid narrative that has been hailed as “rapturous” (The New York Times), “groundbreaking” (The Boston Globe), and “poignant, deeply personal” (The New Yorker). Recently named one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” by The Washington Post, Snider’s works have been commissioned and/or performed by the New York Philharmonic; San Francisco Symphony; National Symphony Orchestra; Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Philharmonia Orchestra; the Birmingham Royal Ballet; Deutsche Grammophon for mezzo Emily D’Angelo; percussionist Colin Currie; vocalist Shara Nova; eighth blackbird; A Far Cry; and Roomful of Teeth, among many others. The winner of the 2014 Detroit Symphony Orchestra Lebenbom Competition, Snider’s recent projects include Forward Into Light, an orchestral commission for the New York Philharmonic inspired by the American women’s suffrage movement; Mass for the Endangered, a Trinity Wall Street-commissioned prayer for the environment for choir and ensemble; and an opera on 12th-century polymath St. Hildegard von Bingen, commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects. The 22/23 season will see world premieres for Renée Fleming and Will Liverman; Decoda Ensemble; and the Emerson String Quartet, in their final commission, to premiere on their farewell tour. Penelope and Unremembered, her two genre-defying LP song cycles, earned critical acclaim from The New York TimesThe Boston GlobeThe Washington PostThe Los Angeles TimesGramophone Magazine, and Pitchfork, among others. In Fall 2020, Nonesuch Records and New Amsterdam Records co-released Snider’s third LP: Mass for the Endangered, performed by English vocal ensemble Gallicantus, to wide critical acclaim. In Fall 2022, Nonesuch Records and New Amsterdam Records will release The Blue Hour, a collaborative song cycle with composers Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, and Caroline Shaw for vocalist Shara Nova with A Far Cry string orchestra, on text by Carolyn Forché. A founding Co-Artistic Director of Brooklyn-based non-profit New Amsterdam Records, Snider has an M.M. and Artist’s Diploma from the Yale School of Music, and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. Her music is published by G. Schirmer.   

September 2022

Critical Acclaim
It is Snider's fresh, instinctive way with voices that sets her apart from most of her peers.
-Tom Huizenga, The Washington Post

A composer with an enviable knack for crafting moody, strikingly beautiful works.
-Time Out New York

One of the decade's most gifted, up-and-coming modern classical composers.
-Pitchfork

Biography

Recently deemed “a rising star on the American compositional scene” (The Wall Street Journal), “one of the decade’s more gifted, up-and-coming modern classical composers” (Pitchfork), and “an important representative of 21st century trends in composition” (New York Classical Review), composer Sarah Kirkland Snider writes music of direct expression and dramatic narrative that has been hailed as “rapturous” (The New York Times), “groundbreaking” (The Boston Globe), and “ravishingly beautiful” (NPR). With an attention to detail that is “as intricate and exquisite as a spider’s web” (BBC Music Magazine), Snider’s music organically synthesizes a diversity of influences to render a nuanced command of immersive storytelling. In a 2022 profile of her music, Gramophone Magazine writes: “Expressive, evocative, and personal, Sarah Kirkland Snider’s music explores emotional landscapes through vivid, compelling narratives [with] a unique sound world that she has made identifiably her own – familiar, yet at the same time strange and unsettling.” Gothamist NYC writes: “Sarah Kirkland Snider is among the most impressive younger composers in the New York new-music scene. Her music can sound ageless and contemporary at once, with an emotional impact that's direct and immediate."

One of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” (The Washington Post), Snider’s works have been commissioned and/or performed by the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Residentie Orkest, and the Birmingham Royal Ballet; soprano Renée Fleming and baritone Will Liverman, Deutsche Grammophon for mezzo Emily D’Angelo, percussionist Colin Currie, and vocalist Shara Nova; the Emerson String Quartet, eighth blackbird, A Far Cry, The Knights, and Roomful of Teeth, among many others. Her music has been heard in concert halls around the world including Carnegie Hall, the Elbphilharmonie, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Sadler’s Wells, the Sydney Opera House, and Wigmore Hall; and programmed at festivals including Aspen, BAM NextWave, Bang On a Can, Big Ears, Cabrillo, Colorado, Cross-linx, Ecstatic, Hradec Králové Music Forum, Koorbiënnale, London Handel, Podium, Ravinia, and Sundance.

The 22/23 season will feature world premieres of works for soprano Renée Fleming and baritone Will Liverman; the Decoda Ensemble at Carnegie Hall; and a string quartet for the Emerson String Quartet. The legendary string quartet’s final commission, the Emerson will premiere Snider's work at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in May, as part of their farewell tour. Snider is also at work on an opera about 12th century visionary/polymath St. Hildegard von Bingen, on a libretto Snider is writing herself. Commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects, the opera has received two grants from Opera America, will be workshopped by the Princeton University Lewis Center for the Arts Atelier program in 2023, and will premiere at Prototype Festival in 2024. Other upcoming projects include a piano concerto; a large multimedia orchestral work; and works for choir, chamber ensembles, and soloists.

Recent works include Forward Into Light, an orchestral commission for the New York Philharmonic inspired by the American women’s suffrage movement (“A gem…fragile and ferocious…lush, inviting” – The New York Times); the widely-acclaimed Mass for the Endangered, a Trinity Wall Street-commissioned 45’ work for SATB choir and ensemble; The Blue Hour, a collaborative song cycle for Shara Nova and A Far Cry string orchestra on poetry by Carolyn Forché; You Must Feel with Certainty, a commission from the Guggenheim Museum for VOX vocal ensemble to celebrate its Hilma af Klint retrospective; and new songs commissioned by Deutsche Grammophon for 'enargeia,' the 2022 Juno Award-winning Classical Album of the Year by mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo. In 2018, Embrace, her 45’ orchestral ballet with British choreographer George Williamson, commissioned by the Birmingham Royal Ballet, premiered at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre. Named Best Ballet Premiere of 2018 by Dance EuropeClassical Source wrote of the music: “a tremendous commission: Snider creates a thrilling sound world, rich and satisfying…a superb score.” 

September 2020 saw the Nonesuch Records and New Amsterdam Records co-release of her album Mass for the Endangered, performed by English vocal ensemble Gallicantus. A prayer for the natural world with a libretto by poet Nathaniel Bellows (interpolated with the original Latin), Mass for the Endangered drew high praise from The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalGramophoneBBC Music MagazineThe Boston GlobeOpera NewsThe San Francisco Classical Voice, and many others, with The New Yorker writing: “the work proclaims Snider’s technical command and unerring knack for breathtaking beauty,” and NPR declaring that “Snider must be recognized as one of today’s most compelling composers for the human voice” (The 10 Best Albums of 2020.) Between the 21/22 and 22/23 seasons, The Mass will receive over 30 performances by choirs including the Cappella Amsterdam, Cappella Clausura, Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble, Gallicantus, Houston Chamber Choir, Phoenix Chorale, Resonance Ensemble, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Vancouver Bach Choir, and Voces Solis, among others.

Among Snider’s most celebrated works are two critically-acclaimed albums of genre-defying orchestral song cycles: Penelope (New Amsterdam, 2010) and Unremembered (New Amsterdam, 2015). Commissioned by the J. Paul Getty Center with lyrics by playwright Ellen McLaughlin about the long-suffering wife of Homer’s Odysseus, Penelope features vocalist Shara Nova and Ensemble Signal. Named the Top Classical Album of 2010 by Time Out New York and one of NPR’s Top Five Genre-Defying Albums of 2010, the album also drew high praise from The New York Times, The Los Angeles TimesGramophone Magazine, New York Magazine, and many others, with Pitchfork writing: “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.” Since its premiere, Penelope has received over 60 performances in the U.S. and abroad. Unremembered, a 60’ song cycle for vocalists Padma Newsome, Shara Nova, and D.M. Stith; chamber orchestra; and electronics, was inspired by poems and illustrations by Nathaniel Bellows about a haunted childhood in rural Massachusetts. Hailed as“a masterpiece” (Paste) and “an intricately magical landscape” (New York Magazine) that “attests to Ms. Snider’s thorough command of musical mood setting” (The New York Times), Unremembered was named to dozens of year-end lists internationally including The Washington Post and The Nation, and was voted one of the “50 Best Classical Works of the Past Twenty Years” by WQXR radio listeners in both 2015 and 2016. In 2017, a live performance of Unremembered with Newsome, Nova, and Stith toured the U.S. and Europe.

In addition to Mass for the EndangeredUnremembered, and Penelope, Snider’s music can be found on eleven other recordings, including Emily D’Angelo’s Enargeia (Deutsche Grammophon), Cantus’s Manifesto (Signum), and Roomful of Teeth’s Grammy-Award winning eponymous debut (New Amsterdam). Her collaborative song cycle, The Blue Hour, for Shara Nova and A Far Cry string orchestra, co-written with Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, and Caroline Shaw, on poetry by Carolyn Forché, will co-release Fall 2022 on Nonesuch Records and New Amsterdam Records.

The winner of the 2014 Detroit Symphony Orchestra Lebenbom Competition, Snider has also received grants and awards from Opera America, National Endowment for the Arts, Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Music USA, the Sorel Organization, the Jerome Composers Commissioning Fund, and many others. She has been Composer-in-Residence at Winnipeg New Music Festival; University of Colorado-Boulder; Soundstreams RBC Bridges Program; the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival; Nief-Norf Festival; Decoda Skidmore Chamber Music Institute; the Bowling Green State University New Music Festival; the HighSCORE Festival in Pavia, Italy; and the So Percussion Summer Institute. In Fall 2022 she will be Composition Faculty at Denmark’s Kompositions Camp at Engelsholm Castle. She has given masterclasses and lectures on her work at Columbia University, CUNY, Duke University, Princeton University, Mannes School of Music, New York University, North Carolina School of the Arts, University of Illinois, University of Texas-Austin, USC Thornton School of Music, Vanderbilt University, and Yale School of Music, among other institutions.

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 non-profit record label recently called “emblematic of an emerging generation” (The New York Times) and praised for “releasing one quality disc after another” (Newsweek.) “Few organizations have done more to shape 21st-century music in New York City" (Time Out New York.)

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. Her teachers included Martin Bresnick, Marc-Andre Dalbavie, Justin Dello Joio, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra Laderman, David Lang, and Christopher Rouse. She lives in Princeton with her husband, Steven; son, Jasper; and daughter, Dylan.

Her music is published by G. Schirmer.

News

Performances

3rd February 2023

PERFORMERS
MVP Choral Program FSOM
CONDUCTOR
Jamie Bunce
LOCATION
Gusman Concert Hall, Coral Gables, FL, United States of America

4th February 2023

PERFORMERS
Houston Chamber Choir
CONDUCTOR
Robert Simpson
LOCATION
South Main Baptist Church, Houston , TX, United States of America

7th February 2023

PERFORMERS
NOTUS
CONDUCTOR
Dominic DiOrio
LOCATION
Auer Hall Indiana University, Bloomington , IN, United States of America

7th February 2023

PERFORMERS
NOTUS
CONDUCTOR
Dominic DiOrio
LOCATION
Auer Hall Indiana University, Bloomington , IN, United States of America

11th February 2023

PERFORMERS
Texas All-State Symphony Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Michelle Merrill
LOCATION
Lila Cockrell Theater, San Antonio , TX, United States of America

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Discography