Alan Theisen

We commissioned composer and saxophonist Alan Theisen! Yeah!



Alan Theisen (b. 4 October 1981) is professor of music at Mars Hill University where he is the coordinator of music theory and composition. 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.

Theisen's compositions have been performed throughout the United States and Europe. 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, Trio Bel Canto, the Mana Quartet, Duo Fujin, members of the US Army bands, and the Asheville Community Band. Theisen's works combine an expressive melodic sensibility, a diverse harmonic language, and elaborate formal designs. 

Theisen also specializes in the analysis & pedagogy of post-1900/contemporary classical music and has presented research on these topics at multiple national and regional music conferences. Theisen is Past President of the South Central Society for Music Theory, serves on the executive board of Music Theory Southeast as a Member-At-Large, and was recently appointed to the editorial board of the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy (online division). He remains active as a saxophonist (classical recitals, wind ensembles, jazz bands, musical theater productions) and performed in two World Saxophone Congresses (2000 & 2003).

Theisen has performed with the Asheville Jazz Orchestra, the Russ Wilson Orchestra, Rational Discourse (an Asheville-based progressive jazz-rock group), and has served as a musician for the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre and Asheville Community Theatre.

To see what he's up to now, please visit


A/B: Any pre/during/post composition rituals?
Alan: Bourbon, stress

A/B: Favorite drink after finishing a composition?
Alan: Single-malt scotch

A/B: Stay-cation or vacation?
Alan: Vacation

A/B: Rom-com or Action-Thriller?
Alan: Complicated Action-Thriller

A/B: Nsync or Backstreet?
Alan: Justin Timberlake and those other four dudes

A/B: Cake or Pie?
Alan: Cake

A/B: Favorite live musical moment?
Alan: Hearing Chicago Symphony Orchestra finish performing the end of Mahler 9. Tears.

A/B: Apple or Microsoft?
Alan: Apple

A/B: Sibelius or Finale?
Alan: Finale

A/B: Favorite Artist?
Alan: Wassily Kandinsky

A/B: What was your first Instrument?
Alan: Saxophone

A/B: Favorite Book?
Alan: Fiction: "The Island of the Day Before" by Umberto Eco. Non-fiction: "Lutoslawski on Music"

A/B: Ideal vacation spot?
Alan: Somewhere far from here

A/B: Guilty pleasure?
Alan: I don't feel guilty about anything that gives me pleasure

A/B: Favorite Sesame Street character?
Alan: Oscar the Grouch

A/B: Favorite breakfast food?
Alan: D) All of the Above

A/B: Your proudest moment?
Alan: Any time a student of mine succeeds musically

A/B: Vinyl, cassette tape, compact discs, or mp3?
Alan: MP3. I know this makes me a jerk.

A/B: Name one item on your bucket list.
Alan: Perform as narrator for Berio's Sinfonia movement III.

A/B: Favorite movie?
Alan: Lawrence of Arabia

A/B: Your first LP, tape, CD, etc. purchase?
Alan: Tape of MC Hammer's "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em"

A/B: What was your first composition?
Alan: Incidental music for my high school's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream"