Awadagin Pratt may be playing the “Rising Stars Piano Series” this weekend, but he is far from one. The musician has already risen—and quite some time ago, at that.
One of the few professional, African-American classical pianists in the country—and, certainly, the only one with dreadlocks—he will play the Southampton Cultural Center on Saturday, November 9, with a program of Scarlatti, Couperin, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Liszt and Fred Hersch.
This is not the first time Mr. Pratt—who is currently professor of piano and artist in residence at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati—has graced the East End. More than two decades ago, he was one of the early participants of Pianofest in the Hamptons, an intensive piano study program in East Hampton that often intertwines with the “Rising Stars” series.
“He has been a mentor to many of the younger Pianofest participants,” according to “Rising Stars” organizer Liliane Questel.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mr. Pratt began studying piano at age 6 before moving to Normal, Illinois, where he picked up violin. Ten years later, he entered the University of Illinois, where he studied piano, violin and conducting, later earning himself diplomas in all three from the Peabody Conservatory of Music—becoming the first student in the Maryland school’s history to do so.
His career took off in 1992, when Mr. Pratt became the first African-American pianist to win the Naumburg International Piano Competition. Since then, he has performed with nearly every major orchestra in the United States, including the New York Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Luke’s and the Minnesota Orchestra.
In November 2009, Mr. Pratt was one of four artists selected to perform at a White House classical music event—which included student workshops hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and a concert in front of President Barack Obama. He has performed two other times at the White House, both at the invitation of President Bill Clinton.
This weekend, Mr. Pratt will take the stage at the Southampton Cultural Center at 7 p.m. He will explain his program to the audience as he plays. Tickets are $15, or free for students under 21, and are available online or 30 minutes prior to the performance at the door. For more information, visit scc-arts.org.