Awadagin Pratt



Competition Winner

Born: March 6, 1966 (Pittsburgh, PA)

Awadagin Pratt, a pianist renowned among his peers, stands out for his deep musical insight and captivating performances, both solo and with orchestras. Most recently, he was the featured pianist in Jessie Montgomery's work, Rounds which won a 2024 Grammy Award as Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Pratt's musical journey began with piano lessons at age six. After relocating to Normal, Illinois, he took up the violin at nine. By 16, he was at the University of Illinois, mastering piano, violin, and conducting. At the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, he made history, earning diplomas in all three disciplines. His contributions to classical music led to recognitions including the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins and an honorary doctorate from Illinois Wesleyan University.

In 1992, Pratt was named the winner of the Naumburg International Piano Competition and by 1994, had secured an Avery Fisher Career Grant. His performance footprint spans renowned U.S. venues like Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center, and orchestras like the New York Philharmonic and the Atlanta Symphony. Internationally, he's performed everywhere from Japan to South Africa.

Recently, Pratt's engagements have spanned from Baltimore to Carnegie Hall, working with various U.S. orchestras and he continues to give up to 30 performances a year. He hopes to add performances on the violin, both solo and in chamber music, to his recital calendar.

As a conductor, Pratt has led orchestras from Toledo to Japan. Advocating for music education, he often holds master classes and outreach events during his tours. He's been a jury member for prestigious competitions like the Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition.

In 2009, Pratt graced a classical music event at the White House, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, performing for President Obama and other esteemed guests. This was his third White House performance, having previously played for President and Mrs. Clinton.

Pratt’s discography spans from Beethoven to Bach, with his latest works involving collaborations with artists like Zuill Bailey and the Harlem Quartet.

Beginning in July 2023, Pratt is a member of the piano faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory. He is also a piano professor and serves as artist-in-residence at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. He’s also the former artistic director of the Cincinnati World Piano Competition and lead the Art of the Piano Festival at CCM.

He recently performed a collaborative work of music, spoken word and film called Awadagin Pratt: Black in America, written by Pratt in response to the murder of George Floyd and interactions with the police he experienced. The work has been performed on college campuses and in collaboration with students.

Throughout his career, he has remained dedicated to enriching the world of classical music through his exceptional artistry and commitment to education and performance.

Excerpt from The New York Times review, February 11, 1993 (Awadagin Pratt's Naumburg concert)

Review/Music; For His Debut Recital, A Pianist Goes Fugal

"The debut recital of Awadagin Pratt at Alice Tully Hall on Tuesday night was sold out. The 26-year-old pianist was presented as a winner of the Naumberg 1992 International Piano Competition and there was much advance word of his abilities. In addition (though in an ideal world it would be irrelevant), Mr. Pratt, born in Pittsburgh, is black. At a time when there are few black American classical musicians either onstage or in the audiences of concert halls, this aspect of his curriculum vitae is very relevant to interest in his career.

His program, was a survey of the fugue in the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods...  his power and dexterity and poise. He can play quickly and firmly and tastefully. In Brahms's Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel (Op. 24), this created some intriguing musical moments. There were the pleasing off-beat accents of the first variation, the ceremonial character of the rolled chords of the 13th and the gracious give and take of the 18th. There was also some excitement in the precise cascades of notes in the fugue of Bach's Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor. Mr. Pratt even gave a sense of grandeur to the climax of Franck's "Prelude, Choral et Fugue." Edward Rothstein


1992 Piano Competition

First Prize

Commissioned Works

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Naumburg Performances

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Recording Awards

1992 Philip Naumburg Solo Recording Prize (Awadagin Pratt)

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