From: Augusta, Georgia. LA Opera: featured in the After Hours recital Songs of Protest (2021).
As a multi-genre recording artist and instrumentalist, Damien Sneed is a pianist, vocalist, organist, composer, conductor, arranger, producer, and arts educator whose work spans multiple genres. He has worked with jazz, classical, pop and R&B legends, including the late Aretha Franklin and Jessye Norman, and he is featured on Norman’s final recording, Bound For the Promised Land, on Albany Records. He also worked with Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Ashford & Simpson, J’Nai Bridges, Lawrence Brownlee, Brandie Sutton and many others. Sneed has served as music director for Grammy Award-winning gospel artists the Clark Sisters, Richard Smallwood, Donnie McClurkin, Hezekiah Walker, Marvin Sapp, Karen Clark Sheard, Dorinda Clark-Cole and Kim Burrell, among others. Sneed is a 2020 Dove Award winner for his work as a featured producer and writer on the Clark Sisters’ new project, The Return, released on March 13, 2020.
In January 2020, he embarked on his 40-city North American tour “We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., featuring Damien Sneed.” The 2020 tour kicked off at Joe’s Pub in New York City and made stops at concert halls and universities in the U.S. and Canada. The tour concluded in March of 2020 at the College of Southern Idaho Fine Arts Center in Twin Falls, Idaho. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sneed brought his brand of classical, jazz, and sanctified soul to venues across the country during Dr. King’s holiday, Black History Month, and Women’s Month. “We Shall Overcome” is a joyous celebration reflecting on the triumphant and victorious moments during our history.
In January 2020, Sneed released his debut classical album Classically Harlem as well as We Shall Overcome Deluxe on his boutique label LeChateau Earl Records, which was established in 2009 to reflect his varied musical interests. Previous recordings include Jazz in Manhattan (2019), The Three Sides of Damien Sneed: Classical, Jazz and Sanctified Soul (2018), Broken to Minister: The Deluxe Edition (2015), Spiritual Sketches (2013), and Introspections LIVE (2010).
Sneed is the founder and artistic director of Chorale Le Chateau, which has gained a global reputation for its vivid interpretations of vocal literature, from Renaissance period pieces to art songs to jazz, spirituals, gospel, and avant-garde contemporary music. He is featured on the recording of Wynton Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass as a conductor, performing with Marsalis, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chorale Le Chateau.
The composer and pianist recently premiered his new opera We Shall Overcome -- Our Journey: 400 Years from Africa to Jamestown at Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage for the Sphinx Organization Performance and Gala, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Robert F. Smith. Sneed also wrote the libretto, which showcases musical styles from the African American diaspora from African rhythms to spirituals to gospel to jazz, all interwoven in the classical genre. He was joined by fellow Sphinx Medal of Excellence recipients and the Metropolitan Opera’s J’Nai Bridges (mezzo- soprano) and Will Liverman (baritone), along with Sneed’s chorus, Chorale Le Chateau, and the Sphinx Virtuosi Orchestra, who brought to life his ground-breaking opera during the evening’s finale performance.
During the 2018/19 season, Sneed served as music director, composer in residence, and cover conductor for the staff of the Houston Grand Opera. Sneed was also commissioned to compose a new chamber opera titled Marian's Song about the life of Marian Anderson for Houston Grand Opera, which had its world premiere on March 5, 2020, at the Cullen Theater at the Wortham Center. The Library of Congress commissioned Sneed to compose a brief solo piano work, Sequestered Thoughts, for its Boccaccio Project in response to the COVID- 19 pandemic, which premiered online on June 15, 2020.
Sneed is featured in the award-winning PBS documentary Everyone Has a Place, which stars Wynton Marsalis. The film captures Sneed’s journey as the musical conductor of the historic performance of Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass. The film features the world-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Sneed’s 70-piece Chorale LeChateau. Sneed is also featured in Aaron Dworkin’s book The Entrepreneurial Artist: Lessons from Highly Successful Creatives.
A recipient of a 2014 Sphinx Medal of Excellence and a graduate of John S. Davidson Fine Arts School in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia, Sneed studied at some of the finest conservatories and universities, including Howard University, where he earned a Bachelor of Music – Piano Performance; the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University; New York University, where he earned a Master of Music in Music Technology: Scoring for Film and Multimedia; and the Manhattan School of Music. Sneed will also graduate with his doctorate in Orchestral Conducting from USC in 2020.
Sneed is currently a faculty member of the Manhattan School of Music, where he teaches graduate-level courses in conducting, African American Music History, a singer/songwriter ensemble, a gospel music ensemble, and private lessons in piano, voice, and composition. He recently joined the esteemed faculty of Michigan State University as artist-in-residence for the 2020-2021 school year. Sneed will work with Wharton Center and the MSU College of Music, helping to bring social impact programming to both institutions while advancing progress in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. He was a member of the faculty at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and Nyack College. His other professional affiliations have included The Juilliard School as a staff accompanist, Jazz at Lincoln Center as an artistic consultant, and the City University of New York (CUNY) as a professor of music. In 2015, Sneed established the Damien Sneed Performing Arts Institute, a division of the Damien Sneed Foundation.
Sneed was recently commissioned by Alvin Ailey Dance Theater to create an original score for Testament, a contemporary response to the 60th anniversary of that company's signature work Revelations for the dance company’s first virtual season premiering in December 2020. He was also recently commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis to compose a new 20-minute opera featuring a small ensemble of singers and musicians, premiering in April 2021. Other commissions this season include: the Tuskegee Airmen Symphonic Rhapsody with its world premiere in March 2021 in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, a new piece commissioned by the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas, premiering in March 2021, and a choral suite commissioned by the Trenton Children’s Chorus premiering in April 2021.
Learn more at DamienSneed.com.