Pratt headed to San Francisco

One of Cincinnati’s most celebrated musicians has been named a professor of piano at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The San Francisco conservatory announced the appointment of highly acclaimed musician Awadagin Pratt to the role of professor of piano. Pratt will join SFCM in July 2023 and will accept students into his studio starting next fall.

But the new role will not require he and his family – which includes Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber CEO Jill Meyer – move to the West Coast.

Art of the Piano Awadagin Pratt
Awadagin Pratt

“I was super excited yesterday when Breeze Airways announced a new direct flight from CVG Airport to San Francisco … here’s why!” said Meyer in a Facebook post linking the story about her husband’s appointment. “Another chapter just around the corner. (And yes we are staying in #Cincinnati.)”

“Awadagin is a brilliant teacher and prodigiously gifted artist,” SFCM President David Stull told SFCM website reporter Beth Giudicessi. “I am delighted to welcome him to the SFCM family.”

“I am absolutely thrilled and honored that Awadagin Pratt is joining our piano faculty,” said SFCM piano department chair Yoshikazu Nagai. “He is not only one of the most intriguing and unique artists of his generation but an equally dedicated educator. Whether performing, teaching, or engaging with the community, he always brings intensity and commitment to everything he is a part of and is one of the most dynamic and passionate individuals I know.”

Pratt serves as professor of piano and artist-in-residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He is former artistic director for the Cincinnati World Piano Competition and the presenter of Art of the Piano, a festival inspired by the master classes of Franz Liszt that brings together renowned faculty instructors with future piano stars and music lovers.

Pratt was the first triple major at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned degrees in violin, piano, and conducting. In 1992, Pratt won the Naumburg International Piano Competition; two years later, he was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant. This spring, Pratt was awarded funding from the Sphinx Organization to support the Nina Simone Piano Competition for Black pianists between the ages of 10 and 35.

As a performer, Pratt has toured globally as a pianist and conductor. He played numerous recitals throughout the United States and abroad as a soloist and alongside top-tier orchestras; they include engagements at Ravinia, Wolf Trap, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and the Hollywood Bowl and Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. He performed on three occasions at the White House and appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and Sesame Street.

In late September 2022, Pratt made his Boston Symphony Orchestra debut on opening night. As a guest soloist, he performed a piece by Jessie Montgomery that was commissioned for him. The Boston Globe described his “imaginative, boldly profiled playing” as “the icing on the cake.” The city’s National Public Radio member station, WGBH, called Pratt “one of the great and distinctive American pianists and conductors of our time.”

Recently, he performed a collaborative work of music, spoken word, and film called “Awadagin Pratt: Black in America” that Pratt wrote in response to the murder of George Floyd and interactions with the police he experienced.

The multimedia piece has primarily been performed on college campuses and in collaboration with students. It is indicative of Pratt’s advocacy for education, which includes numerous residencies, masterclasses, children’s recitals, demonstrations, and panels.

Giudicessi wrote that SFCM’s Department of Piano consists of a close-knit group of 50 students and a faculty with world-class credentials, a diverse range of focus areas and an approach centered on individualized attention for each student-musician.

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