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Arlene Sierra

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Arlene Elizabeth Sierra


Arlene Elizabeth Sierra (b. 1970, Miami, Fla.) is an American composer living in Britain.

Arlene Sierra holds degrees from Oberlin College-Conservatory, Yale School of Music, and the University of Michigan. Her principal teachers were Martin Bresnick, Michael Daugherty, and Jacob Druckman. She worked with Betsy Jolas and Dominique Troncin at Fontainebleau, and Paul-Heinz Dittrich in Berlin. At Tanglewood, Aldeburgh, and Dartington she studied with Louis Andriessen, Magnus Lindberg, Colin Matthews, and Judith Weir.

Sierra first came to international attention when she was awarded the Takemitsu Prize in 2001. Further awards have included the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Classical Recording Foundation Composer of the Year, a PRS Foundation Composers Fund award, and fellowships including Aspen, Aldeburgh Britten-Pears, and the MacDowell Colony. Sierra's orchestral showpiece Moler was nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Sierra's compositions are rooted in early training in classical piano and in electronic music at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Many of her mature works have their origins in military strategy and game theory, with literary sources including Vitruvius and Sun Tzu, notably: Ballistae (2000) for large ensemble and Surrounded Ground (2008) for sextet, as well as Art of War (2010), a concerto for piano and orchestra. Sierra is also inspired by bird song, insect calls, and sounds and processes from the natural world including Butterflies Remember a Mountain (2013), inspired by a peculiar detour in the annual mass migration of monarch butterflies.

Recent premieres include Nature Symphony, Dalia from Cuatro Corridos, a monodrama for soprano Susan Narucki which toured the U.S. and Mexico, and Urban Birds commissioned by the PRS New Music Biennale for a U.K. tour including the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Arlene Sierra currently serves as professor of music composition at Cardiff (Wales) University School of Music. She lives in London with her husband, British composer Kenneth Hesketh, and their son Elliott.

Works for Winds