Five Minutes with Susan Kander

What’s New with Susan Kander this Summer 2011?

Susan Kander composerSubito Music took some time to catch up with composer Susan Kander to see what she’s been up to over the past few months. With several exciting new projects in the works, Susan was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to fill us in on what she’s been working on and to give us a peak into what lies ahead for her this Summer.

Subito Music: Hi Susan! Thanks for taking some time to chat with us today. So we know you’ve had a pretty full schedule and have been busy with several exciting new projects; what have you been up to and working on?

Susan Kander: I’ve spent the past 15 months immersed in writing both libretto and music for a chamber opera adaptation of the novel The Giver, by Lois Lowry, a commission from Opera Minnesota and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Scored for an ensemble of 10, I will do the orchestrations this summer, and it will premier in Kansas City in January and in Minneapolis in April. The Giver is my first adaptation, and I have very much enjoyed enjoyed working within the brilliant construct of Lois Lowry’s distopia. I am looking forward to orchestrating, and to working with the videographer who will be providing projections for the opera in specific isolated spots.

In addition, I have, after long consideration, taken my other operas back from publisher Boosey and Hawkes, and am now publishing them myself, as Loose Cans Music, with Subito as distributor. I am very excited about this change, which means taking control of PR and marketing for these works myself with the aid of a smart, computer-savvy assistant. (Since my kids are big, I no longer have 24/7 access to techno-babies. Now I pay someone else’s techno-baby to help me out!)

Subito Music: Any travel plans? Did you the brave the heat out in Tempe, AZ to hear Christin Schillinger play your work The Lunch Counter at the Int’l Double Reed Society Annual Conference?

Susan Kander: I didn’t go to Arizona, but I did get a wonderful report of Christin’s performance from David Sogg, for whom that piece was commissioned. She’s done the solo bassoon piece, subtitled A character study in seven movements, many times by now, and David reported a wonderful performance full of character and movement around the stage. I also know she’s performed it with video of actors improvising the characters described in the music sitting at the Lunch Counter, as well as Lorraine, the waitress who sees and hears everything. I really love it when people reach across departments or disciplines to create theatrical experiences using my chamber music.

Subito Music: So what’s coming up for you this Summer?

Susan Kander: I’m taking a short breather from The Giver to write a tiny piece I promised to celebrate the 90th birthday of a great artist and teacher of design in St. Louis. This extraordinary man is also a poet, and I am setting bits of his poetry for a ten minute cycle for soprano and violin. I am trying to write at least one movement a day, nine in all, little 1-2 minute things; it’s a wonderful change from the 80 minute opera!

Then back to The Giver, orchestrating.

Subito Music: That’s fantastic! Any other exciting new projects in the works?

Susan Kander: When I accepted the commission for The Giver I had to interrupt work on a large opera about American poet/doctor William Carlos Williams. I had completed the libretto and started composing and have had to set that aside. I am very eager to get back to it as soon as The Giver is complete. I also have commissions for a piece for tuba and piano (fun!) and for an adaptation of the famous Melville short story Bartleby for cello and speaker to squeeze in between the operas.

Subito Music: Thanks Susan! It’s exciting to hear about so many wonderful upcoming projects, and we look forward to hearing more great music from you soon! Keep us posted!

Having graduated from Harvard University in 1979 with a degree in music, Susan spent the next 15 years working as a playwright before “coming home” to full time composition. Since then, she has been commissioned by a wide range of performers and ensembles resulting in a growing catalog of chamber, vocal and choral works characterized by a vivid, often chromatic tonal presence and rhythmic immediacy. Visit her at for more up-to-date composer information and news.