*** Due to the weather, the ceremony will be indoors in the Shirk Center ***

Classical Pianist to Speak at Commencement


Awadagin Pratt

March 26, 2012 

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Internationally acclaimed classical pianist Awadagin Pratt will deliver the address for Illinois Wesleyan University's Commencement ceremony on Sunday, April 29 at 1 p.m. on the Eckley Quadrangle. Pratt will also receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree during the ceremony. Over 500 graduates are expected to participate.

In the event of heavy rains or weather alerts, the ceremony and reception will be held in the Shirk Center (302 E. Emerson St., Bloomington). The entire ceremony will be streamed online and viewable afterward on demand.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Pa., Pratt, whose first name is pronounced (ah-wah-dodge-in), is currently an associate professor of piano and artist-in-residence at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. He began studying piano at the age of six and studied the violin as well. At the age of 16, he entered the University of Illinois to study piano, violin and conducting.

Following his studies in Champaign, Ill., Pratt enrolled at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University, where he became the first student in the school's history to receive diplomas in three performance areas--piano, violin and conducting. Pratt recently received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins University in recognition of this achievement, in addition to his work in the field of classical music.

In 1992, Pratt became the first African American pianist to win the Naumburg International Piano Competition. He has held performances across the nation, including recitals at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall. In 2009, he performed in concert at the White House as part of the Music Series organized by First Lady Michelle Obama. He has also performed at the White House during President Clinton's term.

Pratt has performed with a number of orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Cleveland and Minnesota Orchestras, as well as the Pittsburgh Philharmonic and a number of symphonies throughout the United States. He has toured internationally, from Japan to Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Israel, Brazil and South Africa.

In 1997, Pratt, along with family members, created the Pratt Music Foundation, established to promote music education with an emphasis on classical strings and piano. Music scholarships are granted to elementary and secondary students in the Bloomington-Normal area through Illinois Wesleyan's Music Preparatory Program. Mr. Pratt has performed two recitals on behalf of the Foundation including one that established a cello scholarship with world renowned cellist Zuill Bailey. A collection of papers from the Pratt family was donated to The Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan, where it is held in Special Collections. See a description of the collection (pdf).

As a conductor, Pratt has worked closely with Leonard Slatkin, music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He has also participated in the American Symphony Orchestra League and has conducted a number of symphonies across the nation, as well as two orchestras in Japan.

Pratt is signed under the Angel/EMI label. His five albums include A Long Way From Normal, an all Beethoven Sonata CD, Live from South Africa, Transformations and an all Bach disc with the St. Lawrence String quartet. His recent recordings include Brahms Sonatas for Cello and Piano with world-renowned cellist Zuill Bailey, as well with the Harlem Quartet for a recording of the music of Judith Lang Zaimont.

For additional information, contact Sherry Wallace, director for news and media relations, at (309) 556-3181 or swallace@iwu.edu.

Contact: Sherry Wallace, (309) 556-3181