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40 Songs by 40 Composers for my 40th Birthday

In November 2019 I made the realization that while I’d been asked to premiere countless works over the course of my career, I’d never actively commissioned any. This surprised me because the collaborative relationship between singer and composer is one of my favorite parts of my job.

After some thought, I decided to aim high - to commission 40 new songs as a birthday present to myself for my 40th birthday on April 2nd, 2021 (today!). That quickly became, “40 songs by 40 composers.” And now I’m over 40 songs because there are so many amazing people I want to work with! The parameters are specific, but broad: One 2-5 minute song scored for soprano and piano. Text choice up to the composer, with my approval, in any language. The results have been beyond exciting!

The 40@40 Project is the beginning of a personal mission to commission with intentionality and to encourage and help other performing musicians (or music lovers!) to do the same. If we want the future of song to be bright, we need to be a part of making it happen. I want to help people understand what goes into commissioning, demystify recording and publishing processes  and personally contribute to the creation of new song literature for the future. So often we think of singing as a solo journey, but it’s really about community and collaboration. As I step into my fifth decade, this is my way of recommitting my dedication to the song community.

Some of these delightful people are composers that I have known and worked with for years. Some have been absolutely crucial to my development as an artist and working professional. Some I’ve just recently been introduced to. But they are all insanely talented, and anyone who is fascinated with the expressive capabilities of the human voice is someone that I want to work with. I’m sure the list will grow over time, so check back in!


H. Leslie Adams

Eugenia Cheng

Tom Cipullo

Andrea Clearfield

Nell Shaw Cohen

Emily Doolittle

Melissa Dunphy

Emerson Eads

Marti Epstein

Kurt Erickson

Evan Fein

Daniel Felsenfeld

Jodi Goble

Stanley Grill

Peter Golub

Daron Hagen

Juliana Hall

Ted Hearne

Felix Jarrar

Jennifer Jolley
Joseph Jones

James Kallembach

Lori Laitman

Libby Larsen

Cecilia Livingston

Gilda Lyons

James Matheson

Bess McCrary

Reinaldo Moya

Eric Pazdziora

James Primosch

Matthew Recio

Mike Rose

Jessica Rudman

Kamala Sankaram

Myron Silberstein

Lauren Spavelko

Gylchris Sprauve

Dennis Tobenski

Jen Wang

Scott Wheeler

Philip Wharton

Ed Windels



Some of these people are living, breathing people that I know and love. Some of them are living breathing people that I hope to get to know. Some of them have passed from this world, but still have something important to tell us. Words matter! If I choose to sing something it’s because I want to put these composers’ musical responses to words of importance out into the universe for contemplation or enjoyment.


Julie Baber

Anne Bradstreet

Janet Burroway

Lord Byron

John Clare

Megan Cohen

Emily Doolittle

Jerre Dye

Forough Forrokhzad

Carrie Fountain

Jeffrey Harrison

Vachel Lindsay

Philip Littell

Federico Garcia Lorca

Nancy Manocharian

Bess McCrary

Duncan McFarlane

Charlotte Mew

Elizabeth Seydel Morgan

Yone Noguchi

C.L. O’Dell

Karen Poppy

St. Patrick

Li Po

Christina Ramirez

Hedy Sabbagh Habra

Pamela Rahn Sánchez

William Shakespeare

Susan Stewart

Edith M. Thomas

Katie Vagnino

Nikos Valance

Caitlin Vincent

William Wordsworth

Jane Yolen


I’ll be going more in depth into each song, composer, and poet here and on social media in the future, so stay tuned! 

The 40@40 Project

Photography by Alain Brin

© 2024 by Laura Strickling

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