Sarah Kirkland Snider

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Sarah Kirkland Snider is an American composer of critically acclaimed chamber, orchestral, and choral music, as well as art songs that have been said to straddle the border "between richly orchestrated indie rock and straight chamber music."[1] She is also a co-director of New Amsterdam Records and the non-profit presenting organization, New Amsterdam Presents.

Life and career[edit]

Snider was born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey. She received her B.A. from Wesleyan University and her M.M. and Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music, where she studied with Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra Laderman, and David Lang. Other notable teachers include Christopher Rouse and Marc-Andre Dalbavie at the Aspen Music Festival, and Justin Dello Joio.

Snider's musical compositions frequently borrow from indie-rock and popular musical idioms as well as classical chamber music forms and instrumentation. These stylistic choices have urged critics to label her music as part of the burgeoning indie-classical movement, where she has been called "perhaps the most sophisticated" of voices within this genre.[1] She has received performances at venues ranging from New York's Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center to rock venues such as (Le) Poisson Rouge and The Bell House and art spaces such as MoMA and Mass MoCA. Snider has received commissions and performances from artists and ensembles including San Francisco Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, Residentie Orkest Den Haag, American Composers Orchestra, ACME, yMusic, Ensemble Signal, the Knights, NOW Ensemble, Roomful of Teeth, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, percussionist Colin Currie, and many others. Her works have been featured in festivals such as Aspen, Ecstatic, Colorado, Sundance, BAM’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Bang On a Can Summer, Liquid Music, MATA, Carlsbad, Look & Listen, 21C Liederabend, SONiC, New York Festival of Song, and Apples & Olives.

In 2014 Snider received the prestigious Elaine Lebenbom Award from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Snider has also demonstrated advocacy for new music, both as a co-curator of new music festivals such as the Look & Listen Festival, and as a co-director of the independent non-profit label New Amsterdam Records alongside William Brittelle and Judd Greenstein.


Snider is perhaps best known for Penelope, an orchestral song cycle based on the faithful wife from Homer's [[Odyssey],] with lyrics by playwright Ellen McLaughlin. The cycle originated as a music-theater piece commissioned by the J. Paul Getty Center, and served as a contemporary meditation on the notions of memory and identity that are presented in the original poem. The piece was later expanded into an orchestral song cycle and released on New Amsterdam Records in 2010. The album contains vocals by Shara Worden (also known as My Brightest Diamond) and orchestral accompaniment by Ensemble Signal, and was the subject of tremendous critical acclaim from both classical and indie-rock publications. The album was listed as Time Out New York's No. 1 Classical Album of 2010,[2] NPR'S Top 5 Genre-Defying Albums, WNYC New Sounds' Top 10 Albums of 2010,[3] Huffington Post's Top 10 Alternative-Art Songs of the decade (for "The Lotus Eaters")[4] among dozens of other year-end lists. The album also received unusually prestigious indie-rock accolades for a classical album, including an 8.2/10 in Pitchfork.[1] Penelope was also included in the CMJ 200, Snider's name was featured on the cover of The Believer.[5] Like most of Snider's work, it has been praised foremost for its ability to "deftly weave pop... and classical."[3] Some have found "hints of Radiohead and David Lang... St. Vincent and Chopin"[6] whereas others have noted "traces of Pärt and Sibelius"[7] in her orchestration. The piece has also been called a "hauntingly vivid psychological portrait"[1] that conjures "sensations of abandonment, agitation, grief and reconciliation."[8]


  1. ^ a b c d Greene, Jayson (5 January 2011). "Penelope review". Pitchfork. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  2. ^ "The Best and Worst of 2010". Time Our New York. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Schaeffer, John (8 December 2010). "The 5 Best Genre-Defying Albums of 2010". NPR. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Kushner, Daniel J. (28 December 2010). "The Top 10 Alternative Art Songs of 2001–2010". Huffington Post. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "Believer 2011 Music Issue". The Believer. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "Penelope: A labor of love". The Indie Handbook. 28 October 2010. Retrieved 8 August 2011.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  7. ^ Gardner, Alexandra (19 October 2010). New Music Box Retrieved 8 August 2011.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Smith, Steve (24 May 2009). "Welcome Home, Says a New Mrs. Odysseus". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 

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