Music Above All

Erin Pearson ’05 was recruited to play soccer for Santa Clara University. But her passion for music was pulling her in a different direction.

Music Above All
Erin Pearson ‘05 is a Nashville based music educator, singer-songwriter, and artist. Photos provided by Pearson.

Fresh from soccer practice, Erin Pearson ’05 would hobble into the Santa Clara choir room with broken fingers, a bruised torso, and every limb wrapped in ice bags and medical tape. But Pearson never let herself miss a music lesson, even if it meant singing in pain or playing the piano with one hand.

Pearson was a goalkeeper on the SCU 2001 national championship women’s soccer team. She was also a music major in vocal performance, so what little extra time she had outside soccer practice was dedicated to pursuing her love of music. Her coursework included SCU’s concert choir, chamber singers, opera ensemble, private voice, piano, and composition lessons. She even co-founded a student music club.

Being both an athlete and a musician was possible at a school like Santa Clara, where students are encouraged to educate and nurture all parts of themselves. But sport and music require massive dedication and time, especially at the level Pearson was practicing. Sure enough, two years into school, the reality of her myriad commitments set in.

“It was honestly extremely hard. I would travel with the soccer team Thursday through Sunday, missing multiple mandatory ensemble practices at a time. I’d have back-to-back soccer practice, choir, then opera rehearsal until midnight, and weights again at 5 a.m.,” Pearson says. “I was constantly sleep-deprived and getting sick. I think I had bronchitis 40 days out of the year.”

Erin Pearson soccer line-up
Erin Pearson ’05 (far right) was recruited as the goalkeeper for Santa Clara’s national championship-winning women’s soccer team. For two years, she also pursued a degree in music when she wasn’t on the field. Photos provided by Pearson.

Caught between two worlds, she had to make a life-changing decision. And Pearson chose music. “It was a soul-crushing decision, but I have no regrets,” she says. “I am a musician through and through. Music was where I needed to be.”

That’s not to say she didn’t have her moments of doubt. Pursuing music was, at best, a gamble and, at worst, a waste of time: What if she couldn’t find a job with a music degree? Although it was a difficult choice, it proved to be the right one. Two decades later, Erin thrives as a music educator, artist, and musician.

In Concert Color
Pearson performs in a choir recital during her freshman year at Santa Clara.

Former SCU music instructors Pat Plude, Pam Quist, and Liliane Cromer played a large role in helping Pearson graduate cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in music in 2005, a quarter early.

Pearson spent most of her 20s in Santa Barbara but knew she’d never be able to live affordably as a working artist and musician in a place dominated by millionaires. So in 2014, Pearson moved to Nashville, Tenn., where she earned a master of education degree at Belmont University in 2016.

She is still pursuing her dreams and loves her career as a full-time self-employed artist, musician, and private music teacher. Pearson even found a way to intertwine her love for athletics and music by getting certified in neuromuscular therapy for music injury prevention.

On July 10, 2022, recognition for her work unexpectedly arrived at Pearson’s doorstep in the form of $5,000 from a national music non-profit, Avivo. Co-founded by her mentors Plude and Quist, Avivo annually awards a music educator who demonstrates creativity in teaching and provides students with a strong foundation in musicianship skills.

Unlike other grants, it’s not one anyone can apply for. The winners don’t even know they are being considered. It’s free money and recognition, no strings attached. “When I saw the check, I started sobbing uncontrollably. Receiving that award reminded me that I chose the right career as a musician and teacher. It was this dabble of encouragement,” Pearson says.

She used the money to fund the fifth edition of her book, 10 Reasons Your Kids Don’t Practice Their Music: And What Parents Can Do About It, and produce a new album titled Real Things.

A preview of Pearson’s new song, “The Power of a Friend.” Her new album, Real Things, began production in December 2022.

Whether it’s playing piano with broken fingers, quitting a national championship soccer team, or moving across the country, Pearson chooses her passion for music above all. “To anyone pursuing a passion, do it with quality and integrity,” she says. “And fight for it! Keep after what you want, and don’t let anyone get you down.”

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