Kate Soper, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2017, has cultivated a career that includes composition, performance, education, and ensemble management.
Soper was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1981, and first studied piano pedagogy at the University of Michigan there. She went on for a master's degree at Rice University and a D.M.A. at Columbia University. Soper has received prestigious awards and fellowships including those from the Guggenheim Foundation (resulting in the composition of the 2012 opera Here Be Sirens), the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, ASCAP, and many others. During her years of schooling and beyond she performed as a piano-based singer/songwriter, a new music soprano, and a theater musician and sound designer; theater is a presence in many of her compositions and performances.
In Soper's own words, her work "explores the integration of drama and rhetoric into musical structure, the slippery continuums of expressivity, intelligibility and sense, and the wonderfully treacherous landscape of the human voice." Her singing incorporates unusual tunings inspired by her study of South Indian classical music, and she uses extended techniques in both vocal and instrumental writing. Among Soper's commissions are those from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tanglewood Music Center, and the MIVOS String Quartet. Soper teaches at Smith College in Massachusetts and has performed many premieres of music by other composers as a soprano. She founded the contemporary music group Wet Ink in 2006 and has continued to serve as its co-director; by the mid-2010s the group hosted its own annual festival of new American music in New York. The 2016-2017 season saw Soper participate as both soprano and composer in the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Green Umbrella series; her new work The Ultimate Poem Is Abstract was conducted there by John Adams.