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), “groundbreaking” (The Boston Globe), and “poignant, deeply personal” (The New Yorker). With an ear for the poetic and the architectural, Snider’s music draws upon a diversity 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, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Aarhus Symfoniorkester, Britten Sinfonia, and National Arts Centre Orchestra; percussionist Colin Currie, tenor Nicholas Phan, 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, James Gaffigan, 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, the Sydney Opera House, 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, New York Festival of Song, Podium (Germany), Oranjewoud (Holland), and Apples & Olives (Switzerland.) Penelope, her acclaimed song cycle inspired by The Odyssey on text by Ellen McLaughlin, has been performed over fifty times in North America and Europe.
Current projects include Forward Into Light, an orchestral commission inspired by the American women’s suffrage movement for the New York Philharmonic to premiere on their season finale concert in June 2020, and 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 2023. Highlights of Snider’s 2019-2020 season include performances of her 27-minute tone poem Hiraeth by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra under Xian Zhang, the Louisville Orchestra under Teddy Abrams, and the Cabrillo Festival under Cristian Macelaru. Louisville Orchestra also performs 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 2020 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’s 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. Forward Into Light will also be heard at Aspen Music Festival, under the baton of Hugh Wolff, alongside the premiere of a new set of songs for Soprano, Tenor, and Two Pianos commissioned by the festival entitled Solitude of Self.
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 45-minute work commissioned by Trinity Wall Street Choir and NOVUS NY, conducted by Julian Wachner; and 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.
September 2020 will see the commercial release of Snider’s third full-length album, Mass for the Endangered. Performed by the English chamber choir Gallicantus under the leadership of esteemed choral conductor Gabriel Crouch, on text written by Nathaniel Bellows (interpolated with the original Latin) on the subject of endangered animals and the global environmental crisis, the album will be co-executive produced by Snider and Crouch, produced by Simon Kiln, engineered by Andrew Mellor, and released by Nonesuch and New Amsterdam Records. Snider is currently collaborating with celebrated visual performance designer Deborah Johnson of CandyStations to create art videos for the Mass.
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. Hailed as “a masterpiece” (Paste), “an intricately magical landscape” (Justin Davidson, New York Magazine), and “Snider’s own brand of New England gothic that would make Edgar Allan Poe proud” (The Washington Post), 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.) 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 2017, vocalists Padma Newsome, Shara Nova, and D.M. Stith toured Unremembered in the U.S. and Europe with various ensembles 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).
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.” In 2018, NPR listed “The Lotus Eaters” among the 200 Greatest Songs Written by 21st Century Women.
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); cellist Caitlin Sullivan‘s A Page From (New Amsterdam Records, 2019); Mary Elizabeth Bowden and Kassia Ensemble’s Reverie (Summit Records, 2019); and Latitude 49‘s Wax and Wire (New Amsterdam Records, 2020.)
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, Mid-Atlantic Center 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 2011, she 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.
Snider has been Composer-in-Residence at Winnipeg New Music Festival, University of Colorado-Boulder College of Music, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Nief-Norf Festival, Decoda Ensemble’s Skidmore Chamber Music Institute, the Bowling Green State University New Music Festival, the HighSCORE Festival in Pavia, Italy, and the So Percussion Summer Institute, where she has served as guest composer faculty for the past six years. She has given lectures on her work at Princeton University, Columbia University, Yale School of Music, Duke University, New York University, Vanderbilt University, Mannes School of Music, USC Thornton School of Music, and North Carolina School of the Arts, 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 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.
Creek headshots by Anja Schutz; all other headshots by Shervin Lainez.