Dylan Schneider has emerged as a distinctive voice among today’s generation of composers. His work, often praised for its innovative structure and dramatic flair, has drawn an international audience and has been performed by Grammy-Award-winning ensembles such as Eighth Blackbird, the Pacifica String Quartet, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. His latest opera, STRIP-TEASE, a surreal critique of the modus operandi of totalitarianism, received its recent premiere at Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts. Schneider’s music pioneers a new frontier in performance, traversing the diversity of human experience with a sense of lyricism and play.
By the age of 21, Schneider had attended the premiere of his first opera, A VERY OLD MAN WITH ENORMOUS WINGS, his own adaptation of a story by Gabriel García Márquez. The opera invokes the dreamlike lyricism of Márquez’s hallmark genre of magical realism. A production of the Amherst College Department of Music, the performance was met with a boisterous standing ovation, sustained for several minutes, from a hall packed to capacity. Schneider’s opera earned him the Eric Edward Sundquist Prize in Music, for excellence in music composition. Schneider cites the opera as an important turning point in his career.
Schneider has been working actively as a composer ever since, and his music continues to receive performances around the world. Pianist Lisa Kaplan (of Eighth Blackbird) joined the Pacifica String Quartet for the premiere of DANCES IN INCENDIARY KEYS: PIANO QUINTET. Schneider’s RHAPSODIE ATOMIQUE and NOCTURNE AND WAKE-UP CALL were featured at the Thailand International Composition Festival. His orchestral work A TREE TELLING OF ORPHEUS: WIND’S VOICE was performed by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Schneider’s music is often heard under the baton of Cliff Colnot, principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW series.
In 2013, Schneider’s second opera, STRIP-TEASE, received its premiere as part of the inaugural season of the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts. The opera is the composer’s own adaptation of a play of the same title by renowned Polish dramatist Sławomir Mrożek (1930-2013), whose works written during the height of Soviet power offer a biting critique of life under an oppressive regime, often disguised in surreal circumstances. The opera’s soloists included Mathew Newlin, Chad Sloan, and Polish jazz sensation Grazyna Auguscik, who played the role of a man-sized hand that torments a pair of trapped bureaucrats. Under the baton of Cliff Colnot, the ensemble included members of eighth blackbird, the Pacifica String Quartet, the Spektral Quartet, and bayan (Russian accordion) virtuoso Stas Venglevski.
Currently, Schneider is composing his third chamber opera, PKHENTZ, an adaptation of a story by renowned Russian dissident and author Andrei Sinyavsky (1925-1997), whose bold and irreverent works offer a vivid portrait of Soviet life, often in the context of absurd and lurid black comedy. PKHENTZ will receive its premiere in the 2016-17 season as the inaugural production of subLIMINAL OPERA—a new collective of composers, performers, and theater designers, committed to the performance of new operas in the northeastern United States.
Schneider has served as Lecturer in Music at the University of Chicago, where, as a Century Award Recipient (2007-2012) and Mellon Doctoral Fellow (2012-2013), he completed a Ph.D. in Music Composition. Schneider received his B.A. from Amherst College (Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude) in 2006, a double-major in music and English. His teachers have included Marta Ptaszynska, Jan Radzynski, Shulamit Ran, David Sanford, Eric Sawyer, Lewis Spratlan, and Augusta Read Thomas.
A distinguished pianist, Schneider is often heard in performance of repertoire from across the centuries as well as his own work and the music of his contemporaries. In addition to his engagements in music, Schneider has nurtured a serious interest in literature throughout his life, and he is an avid reader.
Schneider has taught at Smith College, Marlboro College, and the University of Chicago. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he is currently Visiting Professor in Music at Amherst College.