Sheila Silver

Sheila Silver

Fellow: Awarded 2013
Field of Study: Music Composition

Competition: US & Canada

SUNY Stony Brook

Composer Sheila Silver has written in a wide range of mediums: from solo instrumental to large orchestral works; from opera to feature film scores. Her musical language is a unique synthesis of the tonal and atonal worlds, coupled with a rhythmic vitality which is both masterful and compelling.  She collaborates with leading musicians and music organizations internationally. Again and again, audiences and critics praise her music as powerful and emotionally charged, accessible, and masterfully conceived. “Only a few composers in any generation enliven the art form with their musical language and herald new directions in music. Sheila Silver is such a visionary.” (Wetterauer Zeitung, Germany)

For the past few years Silver has been composing primarily for the voice and for opera.  In 2007 she won the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Music Composition for Opera to compose her opera,  The Wooden Sword, which was premiered in 2010.  The White Rooster, A Tale of Compassion, commissioned by the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries for the exhibit In the Realm of the Buddha, is a dramatic cantata composed for the vocal ensemble Tapestry, plus six Tibetan singing bowls and frame drums. It was also premiered in 2010.  Sheila is now completing Beauty Intolerable, a Songbook based on the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, in collaboration with American Opera Projects and the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society.  The June 2013 premiere will feature three singers, including Lauren Flanigan and Deanne Meek, as well as actress Tyne Daly reciting the poetry in what will be a theatrical portrayal of Millay and her poetic vision. 

In late June 2013 Sheila will begin, with her family, a six-month stay in Pune, India, studying Hindustani music in preparation for beginning her new opera, A Thousand Splendid Suns, based on the internationally best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini.  She hopes to accent her Western voice with a touch of authentic Hindustani color—Hindustani music being at the core of Afghan music. Stephen Kitsakos, Professor of Theater Arts at SUNY New Paltz, who wrote the libretti for The Wooden Sword and The White Rooster, will collaborate with Sheila on the libretto for A Thousand Splendid Suns. They recently completed the operatic adaptation.

Sheila lives in Columbia County, New York, with her husband filmmaker John Feldman (for whom she has scored several feature and documentary films) and their fourteen-year-old son, Victor Feldman.  She is Professor of Music at Stony Brook University.

Profile photograph by John Feldman.

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Selected Works


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