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, Pratt began studying piano at the age of six. Three years later, having moved to Normal, Illinois, with his family, he also began studying violin. 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 1992, Pratt won the Naumburg International Piano Competition and two years later was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Since then, he has played numerous recitals throughout the U.S. including performances at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. His many orchestral performances include appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra and the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Atlanta, St. Louis, National and Detroit symphonies among many others. Summer festival engagements include appearances at Ravinia, Blossom, Wolftrap, Caramoor, Aspen and the Hollywood Bowl.
Also an experienced conductor, Pratt has conducted programs with the Toledo, New Mexico, Vancouver WA, Winston-Salem and Santa Fe symphonies, the Northwest Sinfonietta, the Concertante di Chicago and several orchestras in Japan. His most recent conducting activities include play/conducting the Chamber Orchestra of Pittsburgh, conducting performances of Porgy and Bess with the Greensboro Opera, and conducting a concert featuring the music of jazz great Ornette Coleman with Bang on a Can at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
A great favorite on college and university performing arts series and a strong advocate of music education, Pratt participates in numerous residency and outreach activities wherever he appears. He is also frequently invited to participate on international competition juries, such as the Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Israel, the Cleveland International Piano Competition, Minnesota e-Competition, the Unisa International Piano Competition in South Africa and the Competition for Young Pianists in Memory of Vladimir Horowitz in the Ukraine.
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.
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.
Through the Art of the Piano Foundation and inspired by a stanza from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, Pratt has 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 string orchestra or piano, string orchestra and a Roomful of Teeth. Singleton’s work was premiered with the New World Symphony in April 2021 and Montgomery’s concerto was performed by a consortium of nine U.S. orchestras, including the St. Louis, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Indianapolis symphonies, in the spring of 2022. Another 13 orchestras have programmed the piece with Pratt at the keyboard during the 2022-23 season, including Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and the Minnesota Orchestra. All seven works will be recorded in summer 2022 with the chamber orchestra A Far Cry for New Amsterdam Records.
Pratt is currently Professor of Piano and Artist in Residence at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. In July 2023 he will take on a new role as Professor of Piano at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He also served as the Artistic Director of the World Piano Competition in Cincinnati and the Next Generation Festival. In recognition of his achievements in the field of classical music, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins University as well as honorary doctorates from Illinois Wesleyan and Susquehanna Universities and delivered commencement addresses at those institutions as well as at Peabody Conservatory.
Awadagin Pratt is a Yamaha artist. For more information, please visit his website.