The Classical Station’s interview with Sarah Cahill for Preview!

Interview with Sarah Cahill
by Bethany Tillerson (photo credits: © Marianne La Rochelle)

This week, Preview! features pianist Sarah Cahill. In addition to collaborations with and commissions by top-ranked musicians and composers, in 2018 she was announced a Champion of New Music by the American Composers Forum. She speaks with Rob Kennedy about her project, The Future is Female, a collection of piano pieces composed by women past and present.

ROB: Sarah, please tell our listeners about the genesis of The Future Is Female.

CAHILL: I grew up with the great composers that we all love and cherish, but as we become more socially conscious, we don’t need to accept the version of history that is handed down to us. It’s important to recognize marginalized composers who haven’t been recognized before. We see the great composers, like Bach and Chopin and Schumann, still played now, but we also see many second-and third-rate male composers performed without any consideration for women and composers of color. I started this project because I felt that for my own education I needed to do research and create a body of repertoire.

It’s so important to listen to it as music, not necessarily because of the composers’ identities. It’s been wonderful to go back in time and find Baroque composers, like Jacquet de La Guerre, who’s known in the Early music world but not so much in the Classical world, and Anna Bonn. I also wanted to get a global perspective and find composers all over the world.

ROB: You have gathered over seventy compositions by women composers. Tell us how you discovered these musicians.

CAHILL: This is a big project; I’ve recorded three albums, and the first two have come out, and they each have about 10 composers. I love doing research and going to libraries or going online and finding scores. The community of pianists is so wonderful; I talk to many pianists who specialize in certain types of music. Things have changed since I started this project only a few years ago. There’s so much more online now, with projects like IMSLP and scores being available in ways they weren’t before. Things have really opened up.

Sometimes I was curious and started pursuing things just because I wanted to find out more. Hildegard Publishing specializes in printing music by women composers. I saw the name Agi Jambor, whose sonata was in their catalog. I ordered it out of curiosity, and it actually took a few years to get the score, because it wasn’t available and had to be specially printed. Agi Jambor was a wonderful Hungarian pianist; she studied with the great Edwin Fischer and played Mozart’s Violin and Piano Sonatas with Albert Einstein when she was young. She went into hiding with her husband when World War 2 started, and it’s a harrowing story–her memoirs were published recently. They finally managed to escape to the United States, where her husband died. She survived and wrote this sonata dedicated to the victims of Auschwitz. She recorded albums for Capitol Records, taught at Bryn Mawr, and was active in the Vietnam War protests. She was an amazing woman.

That’s just one example of finding a composer, getting curious, and getting immersed in her music.

Listen to Sarah Cahill’s interview at 7 PM on Sunday, April 23rd. Download our app, stream online on, or turn your radio to 89.7 FM.