Colin Pearson holds a bachelor of music degree from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), where he majored in cello performance and music education. He also holds a master of arts degree in ethnomusicology from the University of California, Riverside (UCR), specializing in the music of Thailand, Cambodia, and immigrant communities. As a graduate student, Pearson conducted an in-depth ethnographic study of how members of the Cambodian diaspora community in Long Beach, California, negotiate, establish, and portray their cultural identities through traditional music and dance. Pearson has spent much of his professional life teaching music in a variety of contexts in California and Arizona. During his studies at UCR, he received a Gluck Fellowship to discuss and demonstrate stringed instruments of Southeast Asia in local elementary school classrooms.
Pearson grew up surrounded by musical instruments and has played the cello since childhood. Over the years, he has also taken up a number of other stringed instruments from around the world. He has extensive experience playing classical and new music, Thai mahori, Indonesian gamelan, Cairo-style Arabic music, and many other styles. He has traveled extensively in Asia and collected a variety of instruments. In addition to his study of musical traditions of Asia and the Middle East, Pearson is particularly interested in the way music can express cultural identities in immigrant communities.
At MIM, Pearson is the curator for the Asia, Middle East, and Oceania Geographic Galleries and collections. He also teaches MIM’s Balinese gamelan workshop and conducts occasional demonstrations of the museum’s octobasse.