Eastman School of Music students Ryaan Ahmed (MM ’15) and Erika Pinkerton (MM ’15) have received prestigious national honors. The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans named Ahmed a 2013 Fellow, and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation selected Pinkerton as a Graduate Arts Award Recipient. The awards recognize both students for their past accomplishments and activities, present studies, and future career goals.
Ahmed is the first Eastman student to be a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow, chosen for his high musical and academic accomplishments along with his status as a first-generation American citizen.
At the age of seven, Ahmed and his family immigrated to the United States from the United Kingdom. In high school he participated in musical activities, studying classical guitar, playing in rock and jazz bands, and singing in choirs. After high school, Ahmed went to Harvard University as an undergraduate student, intending to pursue a degree in neurobiology.
In his first year, Ahmed discovered the lute and began focusing on early music, eventually directing the Harvard Early Music Society and the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum Chamber Singers. In 2010, Ahmed was granted the Harvard Office for the Arts Artist Development Fellowship, which allowed him to pursue full-time lute studies under Pat O’Brien in New York City. Ahmed graduated from Harvard in 2012, earning a degree in Computer Science with a secondary field in music.
In addition to his performing pursuits, Ahmed also focuses on scholarly work, particularly in examining the application of computational methods to musicology. Beginning his master’s degree at Eastman this year, Ahmed currently studies Early Music with Professor of Lute Paul O’Dette.
The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans supports the graduate education of 30 students from immigrant families each year. Awards of up to $90,000 are granted to fellows for two-year graduate degree programs. Successful candidates must be new American citizens or children of American immigrants and demonstrate high merit, which a panel evaluates by sustained accomplishment, initiative, creativity, and originality.
Pinkerton is one of 20 recipients of a Graduate Arts Award from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Chosen from approximately 450 applicants, Pinkerton stood out because of her community service work, academic achievement, and artistic goals.
For her undergraduate degree, Pinkerton attended Vanderbilt University, graduating with high honors in May 2013. At Vanderbilt, Pinkerton majored in violin performance and minored in organ performance. In the spring of 2013, Pinkerton was awarded Vanderbilt University’s Jean Keller Heard Prize for violin performance.
In addition to her music studies, Pinkerton was extremely involved in extracurricular activities at Vanderbilt, taking ballet classes through the Vanderbilt Dance Program and tutoring music theory students. Outside of school, Pinkerton played the organ for All Saints Southern Episcopal Church and volunteered as a violin and piano teacher for underprivileged children at W.O. Smith Music School.
Currently, Pinkerton is pursuing her Master of Music degree in Performance and Literature for violin at Eastman, studying under Associate Professor of Violin Juliana Athayde. At Eastman, she is a member of the Eastman Philharmonia and the Graduate Chamber Orchestra. She has also started taking carillon lessons and joined the Swing Dance Club at the University of Rochester, and participates in the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at Eastman. Pinkerton’s goal is to teach music at the university level.
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Arts Awards provides a maximum award of $50,000 per year for 15-20 students pursuing graduate degrees. Recipients are chosen from a panel of 38 artists and arts educators in the fields of music, dance, theater, creative writing, visual arts, and film. To be eligible, applicants must demonstrate unmet financial need, artistic goals, and academic merit.
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