Awadagin Pratt

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Awadagin Pratt
Birth name Awadagin Pratt
Born (1966-03-06) March 6, 1966 (age 49)
Origin Normal, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation(s) pianist
Years active 1998–present

Awadagin Pratt (/ɑːwɑːˈdɑːɪn/; born March 6, 1966) is a concert pianist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Awadagin Pratt playing in the East Room of the White House, November 2009

When he was three years old, Pratt moved with his parents to Normal, Illinois, where Illinois State University had offered his mother a position as a professor of social work and his Sierra Leone-born father, Theodore, one as a physics professor. Pratt began piano lessons at the age of six, taught by Leslie Sompong. He also took violin lessons at age nine, but for much of his childhood his first interest was tennis, in which he achieved ranking in the US Midwest. He eventually chose to concentrate on his musical talents, however, and at 16 he declined tennis scholarships at other schools to accept one in violin at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he enrolled as a freshman. Later, he transferred to the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, as, unlike other schools, it accepted him both as a pianist and as a violinist:[1] " He was the first student in the history of that institution to earn certificates in piano and violin and a graduate diploma in conducting" (Shepard 1998).

Pratt’s career received its impetus when in 1992 he became the first African-American pianist to win the Naumburg International Piano Competition; since then, "he has performed with nearly every major orchestra in this country [the United States], at the Clinton White House, and on Sesame Street" (Cruice 2000). Winning the Naumburg prize launched Pratt into a strenuous performance schedule, with 40 to 50 concerts that year and 70 the following year, when he signed with the New York City artist management firm IMG Artists.[1] In 1994 Pratt made his debut at Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic (Shepard 1998).

In fall 2004 Pratt accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Piano and Artist in Residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. His recital debut there came on December 1, 2005 (Gelfand 2005). Pratt continues to give up to 30 performances a year throughout the United States and abroad, and he hopes to add performances on the violin, both solo and in chamber music, to his recital calendar.

In private life, Pratt resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. He continues to play tennis, and also pursues interests in chess and fine wines.

Performance preferences[edit]

Pratt performs Johann Sebastian Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 on a piano at the White House Evening of Classical Music on November 4, 2009. In addition from 11:22 to 11:27, he salutes United States President Barack Obama with a few bars of "Hail to the Chief".

Audio only

Joshua Bell, Pratt, and Alisa Weilerstein perform Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49 – 4. Finale: Allegro assai appassionato, at the White House Evening of Classical Music on November 4, 2009.

Audio only version

Pratt and student pianist Lucy Hattemer perform Franz Schubert's piano four-hands Fantasia in F minor, 1st and 4th movements at the White House Classical Music Student Workshop Concert. (2009-11-04)

Pratt performs Alexander Scriabin's Étude Op. 8 No. 12 at the White House Classical Music Student Workshop Concert. (2009-11-04)

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Pratt is celebrated not only as a virtuoso but also for his unconventional appearance when performing. “Pratt takes the stage at Boston's Jordan Hall in a subtle but colorful green-and-lavender striped and checked shirt. His black pants reveal a dash of whimsicality below the cuffs: socks adorned with a portrait of Van Gogh” (Shepard 1998). Pratt has explained that, aside from improving his own level of comfort, his sartorial choices are calculated to break down barriers between the audience, the performer, and the music, a result in keeping with his hope that he can build enthusiasm for classical music among youth and audiences not traditionally interested in the art form.

Although fully equipped to meet the technical demands of showpieces by composers like Franz Liszt, Pratt has gravitated more to literature that, while technically demanding, has less surface glitter and more introspection. Among other composers whose works he has espoused are Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, César Franck, Edvard Grieg, Modest Mussorgsky, and Sergei Rachmaninoff.


Pratt has released several recordings on compact disc:


  • (2000-04-09) Cruice, Valerie; Music; A pianist with plans for time traveling; New York Times. [1]
  • Gelfand, Janelle. 2005. A minute with... Awadagin Pratt, The Enquirer, Dec. 2005. [2]
  • (2005) Classical superstar joins CCM faculty at the University of Cincinnati'; University of Cincinnati Magazine ( [3]
  • (2003) Serinus, Jason V.; Interview with Pianist Awadagin Pratt; ([4]
  • Artist Profile at Saint Paul Sunday (Saint Paul, Minnesota); ( [5]
  • (1998) Shepard, T. Brooks; Classical romance from Awadagin Pratt - African American pianist excels at classical European music; ([6]
  • Biography at [7]
  • (2001-11-14); CFA Welcomes Acclaimed Pianist Awadagin Pratt; The Mason Gazette ( [8]
  • (1995-02-16); Barron, James; ON TOUR WITH: Awadagin Pratt; Knowing What It Means to Solo; The New York Times ( [9]
  • (2007-09-24); Gladstone, Valerie; Pratt's Triple Threat; The New York Sun ( [10]
  • (2008-11-15); One Voice Chorus [11] presents Bringing Out the Best: Beethoven, Brahms & Burleigh with special guest, world-class pianist Awadagin Pratt.

External links[edit]