'Great and Distinctive' Pianist and Conductor Awadagin Pratt Appointed to SFCM Faculty

Awadagin Pratt

Pianist and Conductor Awadagin Pratt.

The celebrated musician will start in summer 2023 as professor of piano.

By Beth Giudicessi

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) announced today 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.

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

“I am absolutely thrilled and honored that Awadagin Pratt is joining our piano faculty.  He is not only one of the most intriguing and unique artists of his generation but an equally dedicated educator,” said SFCM Piano Department Chair Yoshikazu Nagai. “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.

“I am extremely pleased to be joining the distinguished piano faculty at SFCM. The school is at the front of the line in preparing students to succeed as 21st-century musicians, the facilities are beyond compare, and I very much look forward to continuing my teaching career there,” said Pratt.

Pratt was the first triple major at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned degrees in violin, piano, and conducting.  He is also a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins, among other honors. 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.

Pratt’s discography includes an all-Bach recording with the St. Lawrence String Quartet and one of all-Beethoven sonatas, both for the label Angel/EMI—among many others.

“I'm excited that Awadagin Pratt will join our piano faculty next year. He is not only an outstanding pianist, but a conductor and violinist, as well,” said SFCM Professor of Piano and 1970 Chopin International Piano Competition winner Garrick Ohlsson. “His wide-ranging all-around musicianship will bring immense insight and stimulation to SFCM. Welcome to Professor Awadagin Pratt!”

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. Weekly, undergraduate and graduate students participate in “Piano Forum,” a departmental performance class. Practice rooms are available around-the-clock and each of the Conservatory’s recital halls is home to a New York or Hamburg Steinway Model D. SFCM pianists regularly work alongside guest artists, including those represented by Opus 3 Artists, the management company acquired by SFCM in 2020. 

“I'm very excited for the future of our program and proud to call Mr. Pratt our colleague,” said Nagai. “His breadth of experience will undoubtedly enrich not only the lives of our piano students but SFCM's community as a whole.”