Sarah Cahill, pianist
“A sterling pianist and an intrepid illuminator of the classical avant-garde…”
– The New York Times
“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.” – Keyboard Magazine
"A persuasive advocate for American experimentalist composers..." – Chicago Tribune
“A brilliant and charismatic advocate for modern and contemporary composers...”
– Time Out New York
“As tenacious and committed an advocate as any composer could dream of…”
– San Francisco Chronicle
“A leading light of the new-music piano scene…” – The New York Times
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 sixty compositions for solo piano. Composers who have dedicated works to Cahill include John Adams, Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, Julia Wolfe, Yoko Ono, 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, Cahill 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, a ritual installation and communal feminist immersive listening experience featuring more than sixty compositions by women around the globe, ranging from the 18th century 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, and Mayville State University.
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 remains strongly committed to making music during these challenging times. Recent and upcoming livestream concerts include performances presented by the Bang on a Can Marathon, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, San Francisco Symphony's SoundBox series, Old First Concerts, Harrison House, Musaics of the Bay, and the Ross McKee Foundation. Cahill also continues to perform outdoor concerts for socially distanced audiences in public parks throughout the Bay Area. In fall 2020, she participated in lectures and panel discussions about women composers and gender equity presented by the San Francisco Symphony and American Composers Forum + I CARE IF YOU LISTEN. Continuing her mission of commissioning new works, in 2020, Cahill has commissioned works by Roscoe Mitchell, Mary Watkins, Regina Harris Baiocchi, Pamela Z, Riley Nicholson, Maija Hynninen, and Robert Pollock.
Sarah Cahill’s discography includes more than twenty albums on the New Albion, CRI, New World, Other Minds, Tzadik, Albany, Cold Blue, Other Minds, and Pinna labels. In September 2017, she released her latest album, Eighty Trips Around the Sun: Music by and for Terry Riley, a box set tribute to Terry Riley, on Irritable Hedgehog Records. The four-CD set includes solo works by Riley, four-hand works with pianist Regina Myers, and world premiere recordings of commissioned works composed in honor of Riley’s 80th birthday.
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.
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.
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.”
Photo by Christine Alicino