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Meet our PhD supervisors: Dr Arlene Sierra

Arlene SierraBA Oberlin, BMus Oberlin, MMus Yale, DMus University of Michigan

An American composer based in the United Kingdom, Arlene Sierra is acclaimed for vivid, darkly energetic works that take their impetus from rich sources including military strategy, Darwinian evolution, and game theory.

Her music has been performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic, the London Sinfonietta, New York City Opera VOX, ICE, Psappha, the Albany Symphony, Lontano, Collage New Music, the New Juilliard Ensemble, the Schubert Ensemble and many others. Recent commissions include a piano concerto Art of War for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, a Cheltenham Festival commission Insects in Amber for the Carducci Quartet, and a New York Philharmonic commission for chamber orchestra, Game of Attrition.

Current projects

Arlene SierraWhat the critics say:
“...her work has its own character, in which historical and contemporary influences are fused into a highly flexible and distinctive style... packed with crisp, vivid detail that's not at all hand-me-down. Sierra likes bold, highly coloured gestures.” – The Guardian

“The new age of classical music in New York couldn’t be more aptly heralded than with Arlene Sierra’s Game of Attrition. ... At turns spry, savage, sly and seductive, Game of Attrition is a Stravinskian play among brass and strings, piano and percussion ... so enrapturing.”  – Time Out New York

“There can be no doubt that Sierra has an uncanny ability to realize and build her musical ideas toward shattering conclusions, oftentimes literally so. But be forewarned: this is definitely not music for the fainthearted. …[She] is fascinated with the martial arts and writes music that is as intense as it is complex. Sierra’s setting of Neruda’s allegorical poetry is truly masterly.” – Fanfare

“Sierra’s musical language encompasses both acerbic dissonance where the plot requires it and, elsewhere, supple melodies of considerable sweep. Particularly riveting were her duets for the devil -- here unctuously played and vividly sung by countertenor Jason Abrams -- and the leading role, sung with earthy resonance by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Roderer. ...the Vox reading suggested that Thurber and Sierra are well on the way toward crafting a memorable new opera.” – Musical America

Listen to tracks from Arlene Sierra's debut CD online:

Postgraduate funding:

Interested in pursuing postgraduate research at one of the largest and most diverse music schools in the UK? The School of Music is currently offering three competitive Studentships that cover tuition fees at the Home/EU rate. More information on our funding opportunities is available at: