Sheila Silver, composer
Sheila Silver, composer

Hi all,
Just wanted you to know that Sheila Silver, who was composer-in-residence for the Columbia Festival Orchestra in 2003, has been named the recipient of the sixth Raymond and Beverly Sackler Music Composition Prize. See press release below. Congratulations, Sheila!


Winner of 2007 Sackler Composition Prize Named

Composer Sheila Silver has been named the recipient of the sixth Raymond and Beverly Sackler Music Composition Prize. The competition, organized by the School of Fine Arts, supports and promotes composers and the performance of their new musical works. An international award, the prize offers a substantial recognition including public performances, recordings, and a prize of $20,000 (USD). This year’s prize was in the area of Chamber Opera.

“The prize is part of a broader structure promoting innovation, inventiveness and the creative spirit within the School of Fine Arts,” says David G. Woods, dean of the school. “It provides the opportunity for cutting-edge creative exploration and productivity, and will reflect the essence of creativity in the artistic program of the school.”

Sheila Silver is an important and vital voice in American music today. She has written in a wide range of mediums: from solo instrumental works 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 complexity which is both masterful and compelling. 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, 2004)

Born in Seattle, Washington in 1946, Silver began piano studies at the age of five. Ms. Silver earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Berkeley in 1968 where she began composition studies with Edwin Dugger. Upon graduation she was awarded the coveted George Ladd Prix de Paris for two years study in Europe where she worked with Erhard Karkoschka in Stuttgart and Gyorgy Ligeti in Berlin and Hamburg. She earned her doctorate from Brandeis University where she studied with Arthur Berger, Harold Shapero, and Seymour Shifrin. Her studies also included an Abraham Sachar Traveling Grant which enabled her to spend 18 months in London and a Koussevitzky Fellowship for a summer at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood where she studied with Jacob Druckman.

Sheila Silver’s compositions have been commissioned and performed by numerous orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists throughout the United States and Europe. Her opera, The Thief of Love, A Lyric-Comic Opera in Three Acts, was featured in New York City Opera’s Showcasing American Composers, May 2000 and received its fully staged world premiere in March 2001 by the Stony Brook Opera. A DVD of that production was released in 2006 by Hummingbird Films.

Recent recordings, both on the Naxos label, include her Piano Concerto and Six Preludes for Piano on poems of Baudelaire, with Alexander Paley, piano, and the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, Gintaras Rinkevicius, conductor; and her Shirat Sara (Song of Sarah) with Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony Strings.

Midnight Prayer, A Call to World Peace, was commissioned and premiered by the Stockton Symphony Orchestra in 2003 and received subsequent performances by the Rochester Philharmonic and the Stony Brook Symphony.

Silver composed the sound track to Who the Hell is Bobby Roos?, a feature film which was awarded the New American Cinema Award at the Seattle International Film Festival, 2002 and is currently available on DVD.

Sheila Silver lives in Spencertown, New York, with her husband, film writer and director, John Feldman, and their 9 year old son, Victor Feldman. Silver is Professor of Music at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. Her music is published by MMB Music, Studio 4 Productions, and Argenta Music, and is recorded on various labels.

“Following the completion of the DVD of my first opera, The Thief of Love, I am excited and ready to start work on a new opera,” exclaims Ms. Silver.

Silver’s winning opera proposal, The Wooden Sword, tells the story of a poor man whose joyful approach to living is put to the test by his powerful king. The man triumphs through wit, resourcefulness, and faith. Based on a fourteenth-century tale from Afghanistan, the music will be lyrical with exotic oriental touches, and will range from dramatic to comic.

“Like The Thief of Love, my first opera, The Wooden Sword will be accessible and engaging to people of all ages and all levels of opera experience. Since this is a piece designed to be produced on a small budget and to be transportable, careful attention will be paid to the text setting so that the story can be easily followed without subtitles, “explains Silver.

Ms. Silver was chosen from among 85 entries from 11 countries and 28 states. Among the finalists were composers Christina Marie Spinet of Stamford, Connecticut and Daniel Kellogg of Erie, Colorado.

The prize was established through a gift from Raymond and Beverly Sackler, major philanthropists and frequent donors to the University. The Sacklers fund several important initiatives at the School of Fine Arts, including an artist-in-residence program, the Master Artists and Scholars Institute, and the Art and Archeology Lecture Series. The Sacklers were also instrumental in forging an academic partnership between the Metropolitan Opera and UConn, the first collaboration of its kind between the opera company and an institution of higher learning. In addition to the fine arts programs, the Sacklers fund many other initiatives at UConn.

Each year, entrants are asked to compose a piece for a specific area of the musical arts, chosen by the head and other faculty of the music department, such as a jazz ensemble, choir, opera, wind ensemble, children’s choir, or solo instrument. For more information, please visit

The 2007 Adjudication Panel was comprised of John Corigliano, Mark Ross Clark and George Twombly.

Past Sackler Prize Composition Winners:

2006 Rufus Reid
Jazz Ensemble

2005 Stacy Garrop
Chamber Ensemble

2004 Orianna Webb
Chamber Orchestra

2003 Karim Al-Zand
Chamber Orchestra

2002 Gabriela Frank
Chamber Ensemble