Go to Martha's homepage


Martha Sullivan


Martha Sullivan’s music has been praised as “vibrant” and “a singer’s favorite”. She has earned commissions from such leading voices in American choral music as the Dale Warland Singers and the Gregg Smith Singers (with whom she was a resident composer, 2002–2008), as well as the Esoterics (Seattle, WA), Bella Voce (Reno, NV), Chicago A Cappella, the New York Treble Singers, the Manhattan Choral Ensemble, and Vocativ (Zürich, Switzerland). Numerous ensembles have performed her work, including such New York fixtures as Voices of Ascension, Cerddorion, and Equal Voices, as well as ensembles countrywide, such as San Francisco’s Volti, Minneapolis’ The Singers, and the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers. Her work has been championed by Stephen Tharp, the international organ recitalist, and recorded by The Esoterics, Chicago A Cappella, and mezzo-soprano Virginia Dupuy. Her work appears in the book Singing for Dummies. She has received several Meet the Composer grants for her work with Gregg Smith, as well as recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts for her work with the Esoterics; she was the 2009 Bronze Medalist in the Sorel Medallion competition for women composers, and she won the Dale Warland Singers’ Choral Ventures competition in its final year (2003).


Martha Sullivan is an experienced singer of new music. She made her New York City Opera debut on the company’s series of new operas, VOX, in 2007, as the troubled mother, Louise, in Gordon Beeferman’s The Rat Land; she repeated the role on VOX2009. Other highlights as a soloist include premieres by Toby Twining (Chrysalid Requiem) and John Zorn (various), and Peter Westergaard’s Alice in Wonderland with the Center for Contemporary Opera. She has also performed Steve Reich’s Tehillim with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Milton Babbitt’s Elizabethan Sextette on the Guggenheims’s “Works and Process” series, and Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel with Vox Vocal Ensemble.

She has also performed more conventional roles (such as Marcellina in Figaro with the Occasional Opera Company and Musetta in Bohème with Eastern Festival) and maintains an active career as a choral singer in the New York area. Highlights have included singing the Coryphée in Alceste with Deborah Voigt (under George Manahan, with the Collegiate Chorale) and singing in the chorus of Bard Summerscape’s landmark production of Les Huguenots in 2009.

As a choral singer, Ms. Sullivan has traveled worldwide and sung with many of the great conductors of the twentieth and early twenty-first century, including choral maestros Robert Shaw, Robert Bass, and Gregg Smith, and opera and orchestral conductors Seiji Ozawa, Sarah Caldwell, Robert Spano, and James Levine.


Martha Sullivan is one of three Co-Artistic Directors (and founders) of the Pharos Music Project, a collective dedicated to performing and promoting new music featuring the voice, whether it is chamber music or choral. Her responsibilities in this situation have included selecting music (especially from calls for scores; this responsibility is shared among the three Co-Ads); contracting singers (both as soloists and as a choir); generating programs for concerts; arranging locations, and liaising with presenters; fundraising (also a shared task); performing; and conducting.

Ms. Sullivan has founded other groups in the past, including a church choir in Boston (the Canterbury Singers of Trinity Church, Copley Square) and Vinovana, a choir and orchestra that played and sang music for International Folk Dancing (primarily music of Eastern Europe). Her responsibilities for these two groups included directing/conducting them; performing with them; choosing or arranging repertoire; and liaising with their host organizations (Trinity Church in the former case, the MIT Folk Dance Club and local presenters in the latter).


Currently on the faculty of CAP21 (New York University’s conservatory for music theater majors in the drama department), Martha Sullivan is an experienced teacher of music theory, musicianship, and voice.

She has taught voice at Tanglewood (for the high school program, for three summers) and Boston University; she has coached singers in Gilbert and Sullivan productions at both Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been a choral conductor in Boston, and taught chorus and general music, at the Waldorf School in Lexington (MA), where she also directed and choreographed a production of Iolanthe. She has been teaching voice privately since 1988.

At Tanglewood, she was the coordinator for the high-school singers’ music theory program for two years. This led her into the Waldorf School job, and also ultimately to New York University, where her work is teaching music theatre students to read music with ease and to better hear and understand its various features through melodic and harmonic analysis.

She is also in demand as a clinician, having taught workshops at St. Michael’s College (Colchester, VT), Clark University (Worcester, MA), the East Coast A Cappella Summit (Boston, MA) and the Studio Arsis Workshops in Tokyo (Japan).