Faculty member Sarah Cahill
  1. Faculty

Sarah Cahill

Music History and Literature

“...a sterling pianist and an intrepid illuminator of the classical avant-garde” —The New York Times


  • Keyboard Literature: 20th Century


  • BA, University of Michigan


  • Alexander String Quartet
  • New Century Chamber Orchestra
  • Left Coast Chamber Ensemble

What is your hometown?

Berkeley, CA

What is your favorite recording?

Richard Goode's recording of Schubert's B-flat Major Sonata.

What are you passionate about outside of music?

Poetry, literature.

Who were your major teachers?

Sharon Mann

What is a favorite quote that you repeatedly tell students?

Not a favorite quote, but I tell them that there's a great pianist behind every major piece of 20th-century piano music.

What was the defining moment when you decided to pursue music as a career?

Playing the Bach D Minor Concerto with orchestra at age thirteen, under Sharon Mann's guidance.

What was a turning point in your career?

Producing a three-day festival at Cal Performances for the hundredth birthday of Henry Cowell in 1997, inviting a dozen pianist colleagues from around the country. It got great reviews in the New Yorker, the LA Times, the SF Chronicle, the SF Examiner, and more...

If you weren't a musician or teacher, what do you think you would be doing now?

Writing music reviews and articles, which I did for twenty years.

What is your daily practice routine?

I start at 9 am and keep going until the afternoon, with very short breaks every half hour.

If you could play only three composers for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Bach, Schubert, and Ravel.

From a music history perspective, what year and city are most important to you?

San Francisco, 1977.

What are your most important collaborations?

Performing Beethoven and Stravinsky with violinist Stuart Canin, and Mozart quartets with the Alexander String Quartet.

What are your academic publications?

John Adams, Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, 2013
John (Coolidge) Adams, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
Some Piano Music by Frederic Rzewski, Contemporary Music Review, 2010
Issues of Performance, The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music, 2014

What recordings can we hear you on?

Ravel: Miroirs, Gaspard de la Nuit, New Albion
Nine Preludes: Ruth Crawford, Johanna Beyer, New Albion
New Music: Henry Cowell, New Albion
Leo Ornstein: Fantasy and Metaphor, New Albion
A Sweeter Music, Other Minds

What is your unrealized project?

Video lectures on 20th- and 21st-century music