Over the last four decades as a composer, Robert Sirota has developed a distinctive voice, clearly discernable in all of his work—whether symphonic, choral, stage, or chamber music. The New York Times has described his styles as, “fashioned with the clean, angular melodies, tart harmonies, lively syncopations and punchy accents of American Neo-Classicism,” and writes, “Thick, astringent chromatic harmonies come in tightly bound chords to create nervous sonorities. Yet the textures are always lucid; details come through.”
Robert Sirota's work has garnered praise from audiences and critics alike throughout the United States and abroad, at venues including Carnegie Hall's Zankel and Weill Recital Halls, Merkin Hall in New York, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Tanglewood Music Center, the Aspen Music Festival, the Yellow Barn Music Festival, Benaroya Hall in Seattle, and at The Juilliard School, the Shepherd School of Music, Peabody, Oberlin Conservatory, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory in Singapore, Royal Conservatory in Toronto, and the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. His commissions include works for the Empire Brass, the American Guild of Organists, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the Fischer Duo, the Peabody Trio, the Webster Trio, and the Chiara String Quartet.
Recent performances of Sirota's music include the New York premieres of his latest two orchestral works, A Rush of Wings and 212: Symphony No. 1; Holy Women, a cantata for nine singers and chamber ensemble, with a libretto by Victoria Sirota; and his chamber opera The Clever Mistress as part of The Cutting Edge Concerts New Music Festival at Symphony Space. Recent world premieres include holy ghosts, commissioned to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the installation of the historic Appleton Organ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in May 2012, as well as two violin sonatas written for Hyeyung Julie Yoon and Laurie Carney, and a fanfare written for the string quaret ETHEL.
Sirota's catalogue comprises three short operas, a full-length music theatre piece, as well as orchestral, symphonic band, chamber and recital works. His 1999 work for organ and orchestra, In the Fullness of Time, has been performed several times by the Seattle Symphony, as well as by the Lincoln Symphony in Nebraska, the Meridian Symphony in Mississippi, and the Oberlin Orchestra. His chamber music has entered the repertoire of several leading ensembles: Triptych (2002) — which commemorates the victims of September 11th and is inspired by the visual art of Deborah Patterson — is often played by the Chiara and American String Quartets; his Piano Trio (1998) has been performed multiple times by the Peabody Trio, the Concord Trio, and many others; and A Sinner's Diary for flute, two violas, cello, percussion and piano, completed in 2005, has already received several performances. His music has been recorded by the Fischer Duo for the Gasparo label, and by the Chiara String Quartet for their New Voice Singles series.
In recent years, Robert Sirota has composed several works for orchestra in addition to In the Fullness of Time, A Rush of Wings, and 212, including Meridians (2006) and Epiphanies for string quartet and orchestra (2006). Sirota's music for chorus and for organ has also been widely performed, most notably Mass (1990) for chorus, soloists, organ and percussion; The Passion of Jesus Christ (1998), a visual oratorio for soloists, chorus, organ, piano and percussion; Celestial Wind (1987) for organ; and Easter Canticles (1993) for cello and organ. Sirota's children's opera in one act, The Tailor of Gloucester (1987) is based on the story by Beatrix Potter and has been produced by companies throughout the country.
Robert Sirota has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the United States Information Agency, National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, and the American Music Center.
A native New Yorker, Sirota's earliest compositional training began at the Juilliard School; he received his bachelor's degree in piano and composition from the Oberlin Conservatory, where he studied with Joseph Wood and Richard Hoffman. A Thomas J. Watson Fellowship allowed him to study and concertize in Paris, where his principal teacher was Nadia Boulanger. Returning to America, Sirota earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University, studying with Earl Kim and Leon Kirchner.
Before becoming Director of The Johns Hopkins University's Peabody Institute in 1995, Sirota served as Chairman of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions at New York University and Director of Boston University's School of Music. From 2005-2012, he was the President of the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he was also a member of the School's composition faculty.
Sirota makes his home in New York and in Searsmont, Maine, with his wife The Reverend Canon Victoria Sirota, Canon Pastor & Vicar of the Congregation at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. In his spare time, Sirota is an amateur painter and often depicts the landscape around Muzzy Ridge and Levenseller Mountain near his home in Maine.