Office of Advancement

Alan Pierson ’06E (DMA) – Pursuing Endeavors of Passion

Alarm Will Sound, a contemporary New York City-based ensemble, was described by The New York Times as “the future of classical music” and “the very model of a modern music chamber band.” The ensemble got its start in 1997 at the Eastman School of Music as a student-run group under a different name: Ossia. Through Ossia, the group’s co-founder, artistic director, and conductor Alan Pierson ’06E (DMA) discovered a passion for performing and presenting new music with a close-knit group of friends at Eastman. Upon graduation, the ensemble members moved to New York City and the new music collective evolved into Alarm Will Sound. Scholarship support played a major role in not only Alan choosing his career path, but also in Ossia’s evolution into Alarm Will Sound.

“I have a lot of friends who left music school with tons of debt. It can be crippling. You’re not able to take the kinds of risks that, as a young artist, you want to be able to take,” said Alan. “I veered somewhat to the risky side, and I’m glad I did because a lot of those gambles paid off. If I graduated with a mountain of debt, I would have had to make very different choices”

Ossia was the impetus behind most of Alan’s gambles, and the funding he received for his graduate work gave him the support he needed during this formative time in his career. The environment at Eastman served as a “lab,” where Alan and his friends were able to dream up wild concerts for Ossia and perform an array of new music. Having scholarship support gave Alan the flexibility that helped Ossia go from an endeavor of passion between friends at Eastman to an organization recognized in the larger music world. After three years, they started becoming known—articles in the local Rochester publication City Newspaper and, eventually, recording opportunities with Nonesuch Records.

When it was time to graduate, Alan and other members of the ensemble didn’t want to let Ossia go, but they also felt it belonged at Eastman with the next generation of students. So, Ossia stayed at Eastman—where it continues to be a student-run group—and Alarm Will Sound was born. While Alan’s scholarship support played a large role in this transformation, so too did the support he received from the Eastman faculty and the Institute of Music Leadership—both were exemplary of an environment conducive to creativity and innovation.

“It’s an incredibly immersive experience. You are surrounded by musicians and music making all the time, and to have a scholarship during this time is a remarkably freeing gift.” said Alan. “The intensity and rigor that defines this community brings out the best in those within it. Having flexibility to follow inspiration leads to better choices in the long-term.”

Scholarship support allowed Alan to follow his passion, which ultimately laid the groundwork for his professional career. In addition to his role in Alarm Will Sound, he is in high demand as a guest conductor, which includes recent engagement with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New World Symphony, and Crash Ensemble in Ireland.

Through scholarships, you can open a world of choices for Eastman graduates who could shape the future of music.