Arlene Sierra is a London-based American composer whose music is lauded for its “highly flexible and distinctive style” (The Guardian), ranging from “exquisiteness and restrained power” to “combative and utterly compelling” (Gramophone). Notable premieres include Nature Symphony “memorable for its creation of wonderful sounds from a large orchestra” (Bachtrack.com)commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Philharmonic, Butterflies Remember a Mountain for the Benedetti-Elschenbroich-Grynyuk Trio, described as “precisely and joyously imagined” (The Times, London) and performed in venues including the Concertgebouw and the BBC Proms, and a New York Philharmonic commission for chamber orchestra Game of Attrition,described by Time Out as “at turns spry, savage, sly and seductive… so enrapturing.” Sierra’s highly individual works have been nominated and awarded on several occasions, including the Takemitsu Composition Prize, a Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, PRS Composers Fund and Women Make Music awards, and a Leverhulme Research Fellowship. Her orchestral showpiece Moler was nominated for a Latin GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.
Arlene Sierra has composed works for the Albany, Seattle, and Utah Symphonies, the Tanglewood, Cheltenham, and Huddersfield Music Festivals, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Bremen Philharmonic Society, and ensembles including Lontano, Psappha, International Contemporary Ensemble, and the Carducci Quartet. She has worked with conductors including Thierry Fischer, Andris Nelsons, Susanna Mälkki, Oliver Knussen, Jac Van Steen, Shiyeon Sung, Odaline de la Martinez, Jayce Ogren, Grant Llewellyn, Stefan Asbury, and Ludovic Morlot, and ensembles including the Tokyo Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, Boston Symphony, Alabama Symphony, Österreichisches Ensemble für neue Musik, Chroma, New Juilliard Ensemble, the Fidelio, Peabody, and Horszowski Trios, and New York City Opera VOX.
Declared “a name to watch” by BBC Music Magazine, Sierra has been featured in portrait concerts at the Crush Room, Royal Opera House, London, the Yellow Barn Chamber Music Festival, Vermont, Composers Now at NYU, Eastman School of Music, and the Composer Portraits Series at NYC’s Miller Theatre. Artist residencies and fellowships include Aldeburgh Britten-Pears, Aspen, Bowdoin, Fontainebleau, the Otto Eckstein Fellowship at Tanglewood, and the MacDowell Colony.
Her music is the subject of a series of portrait recordings by the esteemed Bridge Records label. Arlene Sierra, Vol. 1, recorded by the International Contemporary Ensemble, received rave reviews internationally and was featured by NPR Classical, which described its “remarkable brilliance of colour, rhythmic dexterity and playfulness.” The orchestral disc Game of Attrition: Arlene Sierra, Vol. 2 has been praised for “vividly scored, colorful works” by The New York Times and described by The Guardian as “remarkably sure-footed… quirky and individual” and “startlingly fresh and assured.” Gramophone Magazine has described Sierra’s latest release Butterflies Remember a Mountain – Arlene Sierra, Vol. 3 as “a wonderful chamber music issue that enthrals from first bar to last.” Other labels representing Sierra’s work include NMC, New Focus Recordings, and Coviello Classics.
As Utah Symphony Composer-in-Association Arlene Sierra worked closely with musicians and the community, creating a new work for youth orchestra, Butterfly House, and her most recent large-scale statement for orchestra, Bird Symphony, to audience and critical acclaim. Current projects include Birds and Insects, Book 3, commissioned by the Barbican Centre for pianist Sarah Cahill, and Kiskadee, a Toulmin Foundation commission for the Detroit Symphony with further scheduled performances with the Dallas, Illinois, Louisiana, and Wheeling Symphonies.
Born in Miami to a family of New Yorkers, Arlene Sierra holds degrees from Oberlin College-Conservatory, Yale School of Music, and the University of Michigan. An engaging speaker on composition and contemporary music, invited lectures and presentations include Oxford, Cambridge, New England Conservatory, Yale, Eastman, New York University, Universität Mozarteum Salzburg, and Yonsei and Ewha Universities (South Korea). She currently serves as Professor of Music Composition at Cardiff University School of Music.