“Searing 45-minute music drama” Washington Post
“Unmissable” NY Observer
“…lovely and evanescent” San Francisco Chronicle
“eloquent, impersonal and…wrenchingly powerful” Gramophone
“a composer of vivid imagination and skill” Fanfare
The music of Susan Kander has been heard throughout the United States and in cities around the world, including London, Paris, Mexico City, Lima, Birmingham, Vancouver, Cape Town, St. Petersburg and Guangzhou.
She has received commissions from Opera Minnesota, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Columbus Opera. Dwb (driving while black), written with Roberta Gumbel, librettist, was developed at University of Kansas School of Music and premiered in 2020 during the Covid pandemic in a streamed video co-presented by Baruch Performing Arts Center, New York and Opera Omaha. It has since enjoyed productions at Urban Arias (Washington D.C.), Birmingham Opera –“riveting” classicalvoiceamerica.org, Greensboro Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera (summer 2023).
In 2019, she teamed up again with co-librettist Roberta Gumbel to begin work on Carry My Own Suitcase, a chamber opera about a young man with autism and his family. With grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and an Opera America Discovery Grant, the opera enjoyed a workshop production at University of Kansas in March 2023 directed by Linda Brand and music directed by Jacob Ashworth. The creators are hoping to assemble a consortium to commission and premier the opera in 2025 or 2026.
Kander’s adaptation of the seminal dystopian novel The Giver by Lois Lowry was commissioned by Minnesota Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Knight Arts, St. Paul, called it a “remarkable new work…. sophisticated and subtle.” The 85-minute chamber opera received its third production at Tulsa Opera.
Never Lost a Passenger, about Harriet Tubman and black abolitionist William Still, was commissioned by Lyric Opera of Kansas City and subsequently produced by nine opera companies, many of them in multiple years. Passenger has the distinction of having provided early career roles for tenors Russell Thomas (Shreveport Opera 2002) and Nathan Granner (Kansas City 1996.) Roberta Gumbel created the title role, beginning a creative relationship with Kander that spans over twenty-five years.
One False Move, about girl bullying, commissioned as well by Lyric Opera of Kansas City has been produced by at least fourteen different companies and schools, including in South Africa and China.
Kander’s special passion for text setting helped her through the Covid years, resulting in the publication of First Person, Second Person, Third Person Singular, a collection of sixteen songs and arias: settings of texts from 1669 to today. Reaching out to six friends in six cities, she produced a pandemic era demo of the collection sung by Nathan Granner, Roberta Gumbel, Summer Hassan, Jessica Petrus, Keith Phares, and John Taylor Ward. Thanks guys!
Highlights of her instrumental catalogue include Miranda’s Waltz for narrator and orchestra, commissioned and premiered in 2009 by the National Symphony Orchestra, which was programmed and live-streamed around the world in May 2017 by the Australian Discovery Orchestra. Another NSO commission, The Donkey, the Goat and the Little Dog, an original fable for string quartet, was greeted by The Washington Post as “the first all-talking, all-acting, in-motion string quartet…often hilarious…hugely enjoyable.” Regarding her 2009 solo bassoon commission The Lunch Counter, a character study in seven movements, Fanfare Magazine wrote: “Kander’s Lunch Counter alone is so fascinating that it is worth the price of the recording.” Her 2013 work, Hermestänze for violin and piano, commissioned by Jacob Ashworth, violinist (also her son), is a rare example of a large-scale dramatic cycle written for the violin. “Kander’s study of Apollo, another god of music, is raptly serene.” Gramophone Postcards from America, for oboe and piano, was deemed “a poignant narration of the immigrant experience” by BBC Music Magazine.
She is especially proud to have had her Solo Sonata for violin-viola-violin (on the Hermestänze album) performed in 2004 by commissioner Yuval Waldman during the White Nights festival in the fabled Composers’ Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Kander received her B.A. in Music at Harvard in 1979 but was a playwright until “coming home to music” in the mid-1990’s. (Finding herself in a small village in France during a six-month stay, she wrote an opera for her sons’ elementary school on their two-and-a-half octave yellow Playskool piano. There was no turning back.) In 2015, after composing busily for over twenty-years, she decided to blow things up by finally attending graduate school in composition. She studied with Du Yun and Huang Ruo at Purchase Conservatory, re-arranging the furniture in her mind and earning her M.M. in Composition in 2017. Her favorite part of graduate school was experiencing music through the ears and minds of the younger students in the department. She has been an invited blogger for New Music Box. Her music has been recorded on the Albany, MSR, Navona and Loose Cans labels. Her publisher is Subito Music Corp. She is a Fellow of the MacDowell Colony and lives in New York.