New SFCM Faculty Member Awadagin Pratt Gets Spotlight on PBS Channels Across Nation

Awadagin Pratt

Awadagin Pratt

The short film frames Pratt's rise to fame with a candid conversation about racism.

By Alex Heigl

Viewers across the nation got a closer look at one of SFCM's incoming piano faculty members with the documentary Awadagin Pratt: Black in America, which airs this month on PBS affiliates across the country.

Pratt's Black in America is an original multimedia work in which he weaves accounts of being stopped by police throughout his life, from when he was a music student in Baltimore through his rise to fame.

"I presented Awadagin Pratt: BIA at the University of Colorado Denver in October 2021, where they made a video of the performance," Pratt said. "The documentary grew out of that visit, as the producer and director felt the story needed to reach as wide an audience as possible." 

"In 2020 after we witnessed the murder of George Floyd, in the media and part of the public discourse there was yet again reference to the criminality of the victim," Pratt explained. 

Pratt continued that the public handling of Floyd's murder "bothered me quite a bit because that insidiously insinuates that somehow the victim deserved to be killed because they put themselves in a compromising position … It subtly presumes and presents that Black people who aren't criminals don't get randomly stopped by the police." 

"I realized that most of the people in my orbit—friends, colleagues, concertgoers, patrons—had no idea of the number of, and types of, encounters I'd had with the police, just the same as all my Black friends, all of us with no attachment to criminality," he added. "In fact, just this year, a colleague at another institution said to me 'Well, that kind of stuff has never happened to you, right?' Well, yes it has."




The documentary involved faculty, administration, students, and alumni from the University of Colorado Denver’s College of Arts & Media (CAM). “The premise of the film is that you are never too famous to escape racism and racial profiling,” filmmaker Michelle Bauer Carpenter, who met Pratt on that visit, said on the school's site. 

"I am excited that our field is finally opening up to diverse voices of all kinds," Pratt says when asked about the future of classical music. "I look forward to the new directions, new paths, new discoveries to be made in our already rich musical world. And I'm hopeful that these new pathways lead to new listeners as well."

As for his new faculty position at SFCM and his future students, Pratt offered them the following advice: "Know yourself well, and be true to who you are or who you want to be artistically. There's more room than ever for distinct, unique voices, and varied approaches to the art form than ever. Also, demand more from yourself than your teacher does, be curious, and that will keep that two-way street of inspiration open, as that from you inspires your teachers also."

When asked for the advice he would give his younger self, Pratt said:  "Appreciate every moment, every performance opportunity in the sense that it is a gift I'm receiving in the opportunity to give the gift of the performance."

Learn more about studying piano at SFCM.