Alan Theisen, Musician

Photo credit: Rodney Smith

Alan Theisen (b. 4 Oct. 1981) is a composer, saxophonist, music theorist, and educator.

Theisen's compositions have been performed throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. His music, frequently commissioned by chamber and large ensembles, has been described by composer Dimitri Terzakis as being "the product of a unique talent." Commissioning organizations include the Argot Trio, A/B Duo, Force Majeure Quintet, Tromboteam!, Samford University, the University of Southern Mississippi, Kontra Duo, Trio Bel Canto, the Mana Quartet, members of the U.S. Army bands, and the Asheville Community Band. Theisen's works combine an expressive melodic sensibility, a diverse harmonic language, and elaborate formal designs. Recent world premieres of Theisen's music have occurred at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, the 2016 New Music Gathering at Peabody Conservatory, NMG 2017 at Bowling Green State University, and the 2015 World Saxophone Congress in France. 

He remains active as a saxophonist (classical recitals, wind ensembles, jazz bands, musical theater productions) and performed in the 2000 and 2003 World Saxophone Congresses. Recent national appearances as a classical saxophonist include performances at the 39th Festival of New American Music (Sacramento, CA); UMKC Conservatory; with Chamber Cartel (Atlanta); at the 2016 and 2017 U.S. Navy International Saxophone Symposia; the University of Oklahoma (Norman); as guest recitalist at the Wichita State University New Voices Festival; with the Pan Harmonia concert series (Asheville); and with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. With mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen, Theisen crafted a program of contemporary music for voice and saxophone entitled This World of Yes that they have performed across the United States. He is a member of Fujin - a multi-instrumental new music chamber ensemble extant since 2010.  Theisen performs with the Asheville Jazz Orchestra, the Nouveau Passe Orchestra, the Gamble-Wilson Swing Orchestra, Rational Discourse (an Asheville-based progressive jazz-rock group), and has played reed books for the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, Asheville Community Theatre, and Haywood Arts Regional Theatre.

Theisen also specializes in the analysis & pedagogy of post-1900/contemporary classical music and has presented award-winning research on these topics at multiple national and regional music conferences. Theisen has served on the executive and editorial boards of the South Central Society for Music Theory, Music Theory Southeast, Elliott Carter Studies Online, and the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy (online division). He previously taught at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University (Bloomington) after receiving his Ph.D. in music theory and composition from Florida State University and degrees (B.M. - Music History & M.M. Music Theory) from the University of Southern Mississippi. 

He is associate professor of music at Mars Hill University where he coordinates the music theory/composition curriculum. Theisen is the founder and director of the Mars Hill New Music Festival (established 2012). 

Alan Theisen is a truly an extraordinarily talented and prolific composer of contemporary music. In works such as Noir Fantasy and Con Tristezza, one senses a young master with both superlative technical and expressive skills and powers at his command. More important, this is a composer with something important to say in music. I feel assured that his fertile imagination... will continue to produce stunningly beautiful and well-wrought pieces such as these in the coming years...
— Stephen Dankner, composer
Alan Theisen is undoubtedly a first-rate composer. I was immediately impressed by his musical ideas and craftsmanship in Noir Fantasy which enabled me to build a wonderful program around this piece. I highly recommend his music and look forward to performing more of it in the years to come.
— Matthew Troy, conductor
[Theisen’s compositions] demonstrate a special way of understanding the score as a process of creating music. On one hand we receive precise information about interpretation, yet on the other hand we receive inspired descriptions of musical gestures which offer to the musician the possibility of transmitting a personal perspective. [His instrumental music] is written in an elastic and intensely expressive manner which also could be imagined to represent a human voice - and this is the secret of musical communication.
— Violeta Dinescu, composer, Universität Oldenburg
...eine außergewöhnliche Begabung [...an exceptional talent]
— Dimitri Terzakis, composer
Alan Theisen is among those rare musicians whom I revere for their excellence as composer/performer or performer/composer; however, in Alan’s case, which should come first, composer or performer, and if one could determine that much... what genre would come first - jazz or classical?
— Clare Shore, composer