Sarah Kirkland Snider


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.” In 2017, she was 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, 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; the Birmingham Royal Ballet; percussionist Colin Currie, tenor Nicholas Phan, mezzo Emily D’Angelo, 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 Teddy Abrams, David Danzmayr, Andreas Delfs, Andre dé Ridder, James Gaffigan, Giancarlo Guerrero, Ryan McAdams, Rossen Milanov, Tito Muñoz, Edwin Outwater, Vinay Parameswaran, Daniel Raiskin, 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 NextWave, Aspen, Sundance, Ecstatic, Colorado, Bang On a Can Summer, New York Festival of Song, Cross-linx (Holland), Podium (Germany), 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.

Highlights of Snider’s 2021-2022 season include the long-awaited world premiere of Forward Into Light, an orchestral commission by the New York Philharmonic inspired by the American women’s suffrage movement. Originally scheduled to premiere in June 2020, the piece will now premiere at the New York Philharmonic season-finale concert, June 10, 2022, at Carnegie Hall, under the baton of Jaap van Zweden. She will also curate an evening of chamber music as part of New York Philharmonic’s Nightcap series. In April, the celebrated pianist Adam Tendler will give the world premiere of a new solo piano work by Snider at Liquid Music in Minneapolis. The season will also feature performances of her critically acclaimed Mass for the Endangered by the Cappella Amsterdam for the Koor Biennale, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Princeton University Choir, the Bowdoin College Chorus, and four New York City performances (to be announced.) The Mass for the Endangered recording will be featured by The Streaming Museum on its home page during the month of November, to shine light on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Hiraeth, Snider’s 27-minute orchestral tone poem, will be performed at Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, and Something for the Dark, her popular 12-minute portrait of resilience, will receive performances from the Chicago Civic Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Omaha Symphony Orchestra, and the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. The Blue Hour, her collaborative song cycle for A Far Cry string ensemble and vocalist Shara Nova on text by Carolyn Forché, with composers Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negron, Shara Nova and Caroline Shaw, will be performed by the Louisville Orchestra and will also release as a full-length album (label TBA) in March. Other season highlights include performances of her song cycle Unremembered by Martinü Voices and Orchestr BERG in Hradec Králové, Czech Republic; 21C Liederabend at National Sawdust, Brooklyn, and her choral arrangement of Unremembered by Soundstreams Toronto. Her song How Graceful Some Things Are, Falling Apart will be performed by Nick Phan and Gabriel Kahane at San Francisco Performances, Lucy Dhegrae and Adam Tendler at Brooklyn’s Death of Classical, and the Brooklyn Art Song Society.

Snider’s recent orchestral work has increasingly drawn the attention of conductors, presenters, and critics. In addition to a programming of Forward Into Light by the Aspen Music Festival for the Aspen Festival Orchestra under the baton of Hugh Wolff, which was scheduled to follow its 2020 New York Philharmonic premiere, her works Something for the Dark (2015), and Hiraeth (2015) continue to grow their audiences. Commissioned in 2014 by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as a result of Snider winning the DSO Elaine Lebenbom Competition, Something for the Dark – which The New York Times called “[a] sophisticated piece…a turn of phrase may appear pretty at first, then take on shades of nostalgia before registering as a creepy obsession haunting the ear” – has been programmed in recent seasons by the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Aarhus Symfoniorkester, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra, the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, the North Carolina Symphony, the Boulder Symphony, the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, the Mannes Orchestra, and the Wheeling Symphony. Snider’s 27-minute tone poem Hiraeth (with optional film accompaniment), an ode to her father and extended family called “poignant, deeply personal” by The New Yorker, has been programmed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra under Cristian Măcelaru, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra under Xian Zhang, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Raiskin, the Louisville Orchestra under Teddy Abrams, the North Carolina Symphony under Grant Llewellyn, the Arapahoe Philharmonic under Devon Patrick Hughes, and the Columbia Orchestra. Her 2018 45-minute orchestral ballet, Embrace, which premiered at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, was named Best Ballet Premiere of 2018 by Dance Europe, with Classical Source calling it: “a tremendous commission…Snider creates a thrilling sound world, using the many sonorities of a full orchestra and building her music into truly impressive climaxes. It is rich and satisfying, an impressive first dance score from her…superb.”

Other recent performance highlights include scheduled-but-Covid-cancelled performances of her acclaimed song cycle, Penelope, by Nora Fischer and the Britten Sinfonia at the Barbican in London (2020); an operatic staging of Penelope by the Kansas City Lyric Opera (2019); You Must Feel With Certainty, commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum of New York for George Steel’s VOX Vocal Ensemble on text by painter Hilma af Klint to celebrate her Guggenheim retrospective, Paintings for the Future (2018); the world premiere of Mass for the Endangered by its commissioner, Trinity Wall Street Choir and Novus NY under the baton of Julian Wachner (2018); and a mini-U.S. tour of her collaborative song cycle The Blue Hour with A Far Cry and Luciana Souza (2017). In 2017, vocalists Padma Newsome, Shara Nova, and D.M. Stith spent a month touring Snider’s critically-acclaimed song cycle 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).

Among Snider’s most celebrated works are three critically-acclaimed albums of large-scale works: Mass for the Endangered (2020), Unremembered (2015), and Penelope (2010), each of whose mixing and production Snider played a critical role in shaping.

In September 2020, Nonesuch Records/New Amsterdam Records released Snider’s third full-length album, Mass for the Endangered. With a libretto by Nathaniel Bellows (interpolated with the original Latin), the Mass is a celebration of, and elegy for, the natural world, performed by English vocal ensemble Gallicantus, led by Gabriel Crouch. The album drew wide critical acclaim from The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, BBC Music Magazine, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, New York Magazine, The Nation, The San Francisco Classical Voice, Opera News, Limelight (Australia), and many others. The New Yorker wrote that “[it] proclaims Snider’s technical command and unerring knack for breathtaking beauty,” while NPR declared it: “Arresting…Through her smart and resplendent exploration of age-old musical formulas, Snider’s eco-inspired Mass for the Endangered is a blast from the past that resonates profoundly in the present…Snider must be recognized as one of today’s most compelling composers for the human voice.” The album made Top Ten of 2020 lists for NPR, The Nation, Steve Smith, KEXP Music, WQXR, I Care if You Listen, and many others. Snider also collaborated with celebrated video designer Deborah Johnson aka CandyStations to create six videos for each movement of 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 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 .

In 2021 acclaimed mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo recorded five of Snider’s works for her Deutsche Grammophon debut, two of which DG commissioned for the occasion: Caritas, for mezzo, string quartet, and harp, and an arrangement of Hildegard von Bingen’s O Virtus Sapientiae (mezzo and string quartet). Snider’s music can also be found on Cantus’s Manifesto (Signum Records, 2021), Latitude 49’s Wax and Wire (New Amsterdam Records, 2020), trumpetist Mary Elizabeth Bowden and Kassia Ensemble’s Reverie (Summit Records, 2019); cellist Caitlin Sullivan’s A Page From (New Amsterdam Records, 2019); pianist Nicholas Phillips’s Shift (Panoramic Records, 2019); and Impressions (Blue Griffin, 2016); pianist Michael Mizrahi’s sophomore release, Currents (New Amsterdam Records, 2015); the 2014 Grammy-Award winning eponymous album by vocal octet Roomful of Teeth; NOW Ensemble’s third album, Dreamfall (New Amsterdam, 2013); and yMusic’s debut album, Beautiful Mechanical (New Amsterdam, 2011). Two new recordings of Snider’s music will appear in 2021.

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, Soundstreams RBC Bridges Program, 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.

Snider’s current projects include Sister of Wisdom, an opera about 12th-century visionary/composer/polymath Hildegard von Bingen, commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects with a grant from Opera America, and scheduled to premiere at Prototype in January 2023. Other projects yet to be announced include a 25-minute multimedia orchestra piece, a choral work, a song cycle for tenor and strings, a work for soprano and baritone, a large-scale work for solo harp, and a percussion quartet.

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 Mackey; son, Jasper; and daughter, Dylan.

Her music is published by G. Schirmer.