Recently deemed “one of the decade’s more gifted, up-and-coming modern classical composers” (Pitchfork), “a potentially significant voice on the American music landscape” (David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer), and “an important representative of 21st-century trends in composition” (New York Classical Review), 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 the architectural, Snider’s music draws upon a variety of influences to render a nuanced command of immersive storytelling. Of her orchestral song cycle, Penelope, Pitchfork‘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 the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Kansas City Symphony, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; the Residentie Orkest Den Haag, Aarhus Symfoniorkester, Britten Sinfonia, and National Arts Centre Orchestra; violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, percussionist Colin Currie, and vocalist Shara Nova (formerly Worden); eighth blackbird, A Far Cry, Ensemble Signal, The Knights, and yMusic; Roomful of Teeth, Cantus, and Trinity Wall Street Choir; and many others. Conductors who have championed her work include Andreas Delfs, David Danzmayr, Andre dé Ridder, Giancarlo Guerrero, Ryan McAdams, Rossen Milanov, Edwin Outwater, and Leonard Slatkin. Her music has been heard in concert halls around the world including Carnegie Hall, the Elbphilharmonie, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and Wigmore Hall; and at festivals such as Big Ears, BAM Next Wave, Aspen, Ecstatic, Colorado, Cross-linx, Sundance, BAM’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Bang On a Can Summer, Liquid Music, 21C Liederabend, SONiC, New York Festival of Song, and Zurich’s Apples & Olives. Penelope, her acclaimed song cycle inspired by the faithful wife in The Odyssey, has been performed over forty-five times in the United States and Europe.
Recent world premieres include Embrace, a 40-minute orchestral ballet for the Birmingham Royal Ballet (UK) with choreographer George Williamson, at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London; Mass for the Endangered, a 40-minute work for Trinity Wall Street Choir and NOVUS NY, conducted by Julian Wachner, on text about endangered animals by Nathaniel Bellows; The Blue Hour, an evening-length collaborative song cycle for A Far Cry string orchestra and vocalist Luciana Souza on poetry by Carolyn Forché; You Must Feel With Certainty, commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum for George Steel’s VOX Vocal Ensemble on text by painter Hilma af Klint to celebrate her Guggenheim retrospective Paintings for the Future; and a new arrangement of Snider’s song cycle Penelope for a new staged production by Kansas City Lyric Opera.
Upcoming projects include Forward Into Light, an orchestral commission for the New York Philharmonic to premiere on their season finale concert in June 2020, and Tongue of Fire, an opera on 12th-century visionary/abbess/composer Hildegard von Bingen—commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects, with a grant from Opera America—to premiere at Prototype Festival in January 2022.
Other highlights of Snider’s 2019-2020 season include performances of the 27-minute tone poem Hiraeth by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra under Xian Zhang, and the Louisville Orchestra under Teddy Abrams. Abrams also conducts The Blue Hour, an hourlong work for soprano and string orchestra co-composed by Snider, Caroline Shaw, Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negrón, and Shara Nova, who will also be the featured vocalist at this performance. Snider is Distinguished Guest Composer at the Winnipeg New Music Festival, which features performances of Hiraeth and Penelope (also featuring Shara Nova) under the baton of Daniel Raiskin. She is also a featured composer at Soundstreams’ RBC Bridges program, which will present a survey of her choral works in Toronto. Something for the Dark, Snider’s popular 12-minute portrait of resilience, is to be performed by the Phoenix Symphony under Tito Muñoz and the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra under Vinay Parameswaran, among others. Snider’s season culminates in the world premiere of Forward Into Light at David Geffen Hall, with Jaap van Zweden leading the New York Philharmonic. Snider will also curate a concert of chamber music for the finale of the New York Philharmonic hotspots festival, to coincide with her premiere.
2020 will see the commercial release of Snider’s third full-length album, Mass for the Endangered. Performed by the English chamber choir Gallicantus, the album will be co-produced by esteemed choral conductor Gabriel Crouch and Snider, engineered by Andrew Mellor, and released by New Amsterdam Records. Other forthcoming commercial recordings of Snider’s work include Something for the Dark, recorded by the North Carolina Symphony (for release TBD); Chrysalis, for trumpet, violin and cello, by Mary Bowden and Kassia Ensemble (Summit Records, 2019); and You Are Free and Thread and Fray, recorded by Latitude 49 (New Amsterdam Records, 2020.)
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 “a masterpiece” (Paste) and “an intricately magical landscape” (Justin Davidson, New York Magazine), 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 “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 “one of the most significant and harrowing releases of the year” (Thought Catalog). 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, 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 eMusic, textura, 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 Times, New York Magazine, The Believer, New 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 Mechanical (New Amsterdam, 2011); NOW Ensemble‘s third album, Dreamfall (New Amsterdam, 2013); pianist Michael Mizrahi’s sophomore release, Currents (New Amsterdam Records, 2015); pianist Nicholas Phillips’s record Impressions (Blue Griffin, 2016) and Shift (Panoramic Records, 2019); and cellist Caitlin Sullivan‘s A Page From (New Amsterdam Records, 2019).
The 2014 winner of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award for female composers, Snider has also received grants and awards from Opera America, National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA, the Sorel Organization, and the Jerome Composers Commissioning Fund, as well as Yale School of Music prizes and young composer honors. In in 2011, was one of three composers spotlighted in the NPR feature “100 Composers Under 40,” and in 2017 she was named one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” by The Washington Post.
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. 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.
Photo by Shervin Lainez