Among his generation of concert artists, pianist Awadagin Pratt is acclaimed for his musical insight and intensely involving performances in recital and with symphony orchestras. Born in Pittsburgh, Awadagin Pratt began studying piano and violin at an early age. At the age of 16 he entered the University of Illinois where he studied piano, violin, and conducting. He subsequently enrolled at the Peabody Conservatory of Music where he became the first student in the school’s history to receive diplomas in three performance areas – piano, violin and conducting.
In summer 2023, he began his tenure as the Music Director of the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra in Ohio. In July 2023, Pratt joined the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as a Professor of Piano. He was previously a Professor of Piano and Artist in Residence at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati for nineteen years.
A great favorite on college and university performing arts series and a strong advocate of music education, Awadagin Pratt participates in numerous residency and outreach activities wherever he appears. He has created a program called Black in America during which he tells about his encounters with the police, especially while driving, starting when he was a teenager and continuing through his post graduate studies and into his adulthood. His narrative is interspersed with live music performed by Pratt and students, followed by a panel discussion regarding the state of race in America today. Michelle Bauer Carpenter produced a documentary about Black in America which aired on 90 PBS stations across the country earlier this year.
Mr. Pratt’s recordings for Angel/EMI include A Long Way From Normal, an all Beethoven Sonata CD, Live From South Africa, Transformations and an all Bach disc with the St. Lawrence String Quartet. His most recent recordings are the Brahms Sonatas for Cello and Piano with Zuill Bailey for Telarc and a recording of the music of Judith Lang Zaimont with the Harlem String Quartet.
Awadagin Pratt is also the founder and Artistic Director of the Art of the Piano and produces a festival every spring featuring performances and conversations with well-known pianists and piano faculty members. This spring, he also organized the first Nina Simone Piano Competition for Black Pianists in collaboration with the Cincinnati Symphony, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and the Art of the Piano Festival. The competition was made possible by a generous grant from the Sphinx Organization.
Also through the Art of the Piano Foundation and inspired by a stanza from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, Mr. Pratt commissioned seven composers – Jessie Montgomery, Alvin Singleton, Judd Greenstein, Tyshawn Sorey, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Paola Prestini and Peteris Vasks – to compose works for piano and strings or piano, strings and a Roomful of Teeth. Mr. Singleton’s work was premiered with the New World Symphony in April 2021 and during the 21/22, 22/23 and 23/24 seasons, Mr. Pratt has or will have performed the Montgomery concerto with more than 30 US orchestras, including the Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Milwaukee symphonies and The Minnesota Orchestra. All seven works were recorded in summer 2022 with the chamber orchestra A Far Cry for New Amsterdam Records.