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May 2, 2012

Bienen Pianist Wins Edes Prize

Nolan PearsonEVANSTON, Ill. —- Pianist Nolan Pearson, a graduate of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, is a 2012 recipient of the Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists. The highly competitive award, given to one artist from Northwestern, the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and the School of the Art Institute, is designed to help developing artists start their careers. 

Pearson, who is currently on faculty at the Bienen School as the staff pianist, presented a performance/lecture on April 23 which included works by Elliott Carter, György Ligeti, and Aaron Travers, to a 13-member prize selection jury. The panel included Bienen violin professor Gerardo Ribeiro. A mere 72 hours later, after performing at a concert in Columbus, Ohio, Pearson received word that he had won the $30,000 fellowship. 

After undergraduate study at Oberlin College, Pearson received his masters degree in piano in 2009 from the Bienen School, where he studied with former Bienen professor Ursula Oppens and current Bienen associate professor James Giles. 

“Nolan is the quintessential Northwestern student,” praises Giles. “He brings the ideal combination of intellect and emotion to his playing. He is as equally distinguished in canonical music as new music.” Giles expects that the Edes Prize will truly launch Pearson as a professional musician. “I hope it will be transformational.”

“He is truly a stunningly well-rounded musician,” Oppens said. “He shines as a recitalist, chamber musician, and vocal accompanist.” Oppens noted that Pearson has coached with sopranos Dawn Upshaw and Phyllis Curtin as well as conductor and pianist James Levine, among others.

Pearson’s talent has previously received recognition, including the prestigious Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship, awarded by the University of Illinois. He has spent the last four summers at the Tanglewood Festival as a member of the resident performance group The New Fromm Players. While at Tanglewood, he studied with Peter Serkin and Stephen Drury. In 2011, he performed as a soloist with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra under the baton of Miguel Harth-Bedoya. An earlier solo performance at Tanglewood drew the attention of the New York Times, which hailed him as a “high-energy” pianist who “brought beauty and cohesiveness” to his program.

Pearson says the fellowship will allow him to focus on building the elements of his career: “I can cut back on being a freelance pianist and focus on the most important thing to me: playing at the highest level.” He plans to commission new works for solo piano, with premieres in September 2013. He will also enter major piano competitions in Europe to build his reputation overseas, and he expects to organize a tour around America. 

The Edes Prize was created by Nik Edes, son of longtime arts supporters Claire and Samuel Edes Edes and president of the Edes Foundation. Pearson is not the first Bienen graduate to receive the prize: in 2010, saxophonist Ryan Muncy (G10) won the award.