Sarah Cahill, pianist

Sarah Cahill, hailed as “a sterling pianist and an intrepid illuminator of the classical avant-garde” by The New York Times, has commissioned and premiered over seventy compositions for solo piano. Composers who have dedicated works to Cahill include John Adams, Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, Julia Wolfe, Roscoe Mitchell, Annea Lockwood, and Ingram Marshall. Keyboard Magazine writes, “Through her inspired interpretation of works across the 20th and 21st centuries, Cahill has been instrumental in bringing to life the music of many of our greatest living composers.” She was named a 2018 Champion of New Music, awarded by the American Composers Forum (ACF).

Cahill enjoys working closely with composers, musicologists, and scholars to prepare scores for each performance. She researched and recorded music by prominent early 20th- century American modernists Henry Cowell and Ruth Crawford and commissioned a number of new pieces in tribute to their enduring influence. Cahill has worked closely with composer Terry Riley since 1997, and for his 80th birthday, she commissioned nine new works for solo piano in his honor and performed them with several of Riley’s own compositions at venues across the country. Cahill also had the opportunity to work closely with Lou Harrison and has championed many of his works for piano.

Cahill’s latest project is The Future is Female, an investigation and reframing of the piano literature featuring more than seventy compositions by women around the globe, from the Baroque to the present day. Recent and upcoming performances of The Future is Female include concerts presented by The Barbican, Carolina Performing Arts, Carlsbad Music Festival, Detroit Institute of Arts, University of Iowa, Bowling Green New Music Festival, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, North Dakota Museum of Art, Mayville State University, the EXTENSITY Concert Series’ Women Now Festival in New York, and the Newport Classical Festival.

Cahill has performed classical and contemporary chamber music with artists and ensembles such as Jessica Lang Dance; pianists Joseph Kubera, Adam Tendler, and Regina Myers; violinist Stuart Canin; the Alexander String Quartet; New Century Chamber Orchestra; Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and many more. She also performs as a duo with violinist Kate Stenberg.

Sarah Cahill’s discography includes more than twenty albums on the New Albion, CRI, New World, Tzadik, Albany, Innova, Cold Blue, Other Minds, Irritable Hedgehog, and Pinna labels. Cahill's latest album, The Future is Female, Vol. 1, In Nature, was released in March 2022 on First Hand Records. The Future is Female is a three-volume series, which celebrates and highlights women composers from the 17th century to the present day. These albums encompass 30 compositions by women from around the globe and include many new commissioned works and world premiere recordings.

Cahill’s radio show, Revolutions Per Minute, can be heard every Sunday evening from 8 to 10 pm on KALW, 91.7 FM in San Francisco. She is on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory and is a regular pre-concert speaker with the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Concert Programs

Pianist Sarah Cahill announces new concert programs, offered for the 2021-2022 concert season and beyond.

The Future is Female

The Future is Female is an investigation and reframing of the piano literature featuring more than sixty compositions by women around the globe, from the Baroque to the present day, including new commissioned works. 

Endless Shout

Sarah Cahill has worked with George Lewis, Tania León, and Mary Watkins since the mid-1990s, and she premiered and recorded Lewis’ four-movement Endless Shout under the composer’s supervision. For this program comprising works written by Black and POC composers, Sarah revisits these favorites and juxtaposes them with recent works, including new commissions from Mary Watkins and Regina Harris Baiocchi.

Be Kind to One Another

Sarah Cahill has commissioned Frederic Rzewski to compose a substantial solo piano work in honor of Terry Riley’s 85th birthday. Of Riley, whom he has known since 1964, Rzewski writes, “I guess he is what you might call a ‘good man.’ There are not many of these in the world of contemporary music, where generally the rule ‘Nice guys finish last’ tends to apply. Fortunately, Terry is pretty much recognized for what he is: a good composer and a good person. I was really happy when Sarah Cahill asked me to write a piece for his 85th birthday.” The commissioned work, in six movements, is called Humanitas. Sarah pairs Humanitas with works by Terry Riley, Margaret Bonds, Theresa Wong, and Ingram Marshall. All but Bonds’ Troubled Water were commissioned by Sarah, and all contribute to the powerful message of encouraging decency and compassion. The title of the program comes from Terry Riley’s work of the same name, which is a quote from the writer Alice Walker a few days after 9/11: “We must learn to be kind to one another now.”

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Photo by Christine Alicino

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Sarah Cahill by Miranda Sanborn
Sarah Cahill by Miranda Sanborn
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Sarah Cahill by Miranda Sanborn
Sarah Cahill by Miranda Sanborn
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Sarah Cahill by Miranda Sanborn
Sarah Cahill by Miranda Sanborn
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Sarah Cahill by Christine Alicino
Sarah Cahill by Christine Alicino
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