“For better or worse, I don’t come from the academy. I come from the theater where, if you lose your audience, you’re dead. So in any composition, in any style or venue, I try to bring the audience along with me wherever I’m going.” — Susan Kander
Susan Kander – a MacDowell Colony Fellow – has been commissioned by such notable ensembles and organizations including: the National Symphony Orchestra; the Kansas City Chorale; Southampton Chamber Music Festival; the Copland Fund and the Columbia Foundation, along a variety of instrumentalists and chamber groups. Her music has been performed throughout the United States and internationally, including London, Paris, Mexico City, Lima, Birmingham (UK), Vancouver, Cape Town, Melbourne, St. Petersburg and Guangzhou (China). After attending Harvard University and earning a BA in music, Kander embarked on a career as a playwright until “coming home to music” in the mid-1990’s. In 2015, after busily composing for 20 years, she decided to “blow things up” by finally going to graduate school. She attended the Conservatory of Music at SUNY Purchase (New York) where she studied with Du Yun and Huang Ruo, and earned her MM in composition while writing a variety of new works for orchestra and chamber ensemble.
In the opera world, Kander’s commissioners include the Minnesota Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera Theater of St. Louis, and Opera Columbus. In 2012, the Minnesota Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City co-commissioned and premiered Kander’s adaptation of The Giver, which is based after Lois Lowry’s seminal dystopian novel. The 85-minute chamber opera subsequently received its third production in January 2015 at the Tulsa Opera. Kander’s opera One False Move (conceived and commissioned by Paula Winans at Lyric Opera of Kansas City) deals with the issue of “mean girls” and “school bullying,” and has been presented by opera companies, schools, colleges and choruses. Her work She Never Lost a Passenger, also commissioned by Lyric Opera of Kansas City, has introduced children across the US to the American historical figure of Harriet Tubman and her vital role in the Underground Rail Road. In April 2016, her chamber opera The News from Poems (based on the life of influential American 20th-century Modernist poet William Carlos Williams) was presented in a concert reading at the National Opera Center in New York City.
Kander’s work Miranda’s Waltz (scored for narrator and orchestra, and commissioned and premiered in 2009 by the National Symphony Orchestra) received its Australian premiere in May 2017 and was live-streamed worldwide from Melbourne by the Australian Discovery Orchestra. Kevin Purcell conducted. Afterward, Purcell and the ensemble took Miranda’s Waltz to Rotterdam as a featured work at the 2017 Classical NEXT Conference.
Kander’s music can be found on Soundcloud and YouTube; and her chamber works have been recorded by MSR Classics, Navona and Loose Cans Music. Her most recent disc “Hermestänze” (MSR Classics MS1578), was described by Fanfare Magazine as a release that “proves [Kander] to be a composer of vivid imagination and skill…21st-century music enthusiasts won’t want to miss this one!”