Sarah Kirkland Snider

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 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 some of the most prestigious orchestras, ensembles, and soloists throughout the world, including the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the North Carolina Symphony; 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); A Far Cry, Ensemble Signal, The Knights, 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, Grant Llewellyn, 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 song cycle for mezzo and orchestra (or chamber ensemble), has been performed over forty times in the United States and Europe.

Recent premieres include Embrace, a 40-minute orchestral ballet for the Birmingham Royal Ballet (UK) and choreographer George Williamson, at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London; Mass for the Endangered, a 38-minute work for Trinity Wall Street Choir and NOVUS NY, conducted by Julian Wachner, on text about endangered animals by Nathaniel Bellows; and The Blue Hour, an evening-length collaborative song cycle for Far Cry string orchestra and vocalist Luciana Souza on poetry by Carolyn Forché. The 18/19 Season premieres will include You Must Feel With Certainty, commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum for VOX Vocal Ensemble on text by painter Hilma af Klint; a work for flute and piano for flutist Allison Loggins-Hull; and a new arrangement of Snider’s song cycle Penelope for a new staged production by Kansas City Lyric Opera. In the meantime, Snider will pursue work on several larger projects including O Ecclesia, an opera commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects to premiere in January 2021.

The 18/19 season will include seven performances of her orchestral work Something for the Dark—commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2014 when Snider won the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Awardby the Aarhus Symfoniorkester, the Boulder Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra, and the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra. Her 27-minute work for orchestra (and optional film by Mark deChiazza), Hiraeth, originally commissioned by North Carolina Symphony and Princeton Symphony Orchestra, will be performed by the Arapahoe Philharmonic and the Columbia Orchestra. In addition to the Kansas City Lyric Opera’s new production, her song cycle Penelope will be toured in Holland’s renowned Cross-linx Festival and performed by TURNmusic in Vermont.

Recent performance highlights include the 2018 European premiere of Something for the Dark with Maestro Andreas Delfs and the Aarhus Symfoniorkester at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie; a new European production of Unremembered performed at Germany’s Podium Festival and Holland’s Oranjewoud Festival in 2018; the U.S./European 2017 tour of her acclaimed orchestral song cycle, Unremembered—in which idiosyncratic vocalists Padma Newsome, Shara Nova, and D.M. Stith gave twelve 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; the UK premiere of Penelope with mezzo-soprano Jessica Walker and Psappha; the New York Philharmonic’s CONTACT series performance of her chamber work Thread and Fray; the National Symphony Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra (under Leonard Slatkin) performances of Something for the Dark; and the BAM Next Wave Festivalpresentation of Ouroboros, part of Epiphany, an immersive multimedia installation for the Young People’s Chorus of New York.

For the 18-19 season, Snider will be Composer-in-Residence at University of Colorado-Boulder College of Music, as well as a featured guest composer at Knoxville’s Nief-Norf Festival. Snider was also Co-Composer-in-Residence at the esteemed Bowling Green State University New Music Festival, and guest composition faculty at the 2018 HighSCORE Festival in Pavia, Italy. She has also served as guest composer faculty at the So Percussion Summer Institute for five years.

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 “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 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; NOW Ensemble‘s third album, Dreamfall; pianist Michael Mizrahi’s sophomore release, Currents and pianist Nicholas Phillips’s record Impressions. Forthcoming recordings of Snider’s music will include Mass for the Endangered, recorded by Trinity Wall Street Choir and NOVUS NY; Something for the Dark, recorded by the North Carolina Symphony; 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 Musicand 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 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.