CCM Professor Awadagin Pratt spotlighted for commitment to inclusion in the arts

The Cincinnati Business Courier features Pratt and his piano competition centered on Black artists

UC College-Conservatory of Music Professor of Piano and Artist-in-Residence Awadagin Pratt spoke to the Cincinnati Business Courier about his aspirations to diversify the arts industry by encouraging the next generation of Black pianists. 

Pratt was one of three recipients of the 2021 Sphinx Venture Fund, generating an award of $100,000 to kick-start the biannual Nina Simone Piano Competition beginning summer 2023. Open to African American pianists between the ages of 10 and 35, winners will receive monetary prizes, performance opportunities and admittance into Art of the Piano, an affiliate CCM program run by Pratt. 

“We will show that [Black artists are] out there and that they’re everywhere, and how wonderful they are,” Pratt tells the Cincinnati Business Courier. Applications for the Nina Simone Piano Competition will open in December 2022. In addition to the competition, some of the funds will go towards commissioning new piano works.

Awadagin Pratt is no stranger to receiving awards. He won the prestigious Naumburg Piano Competition as well as the National Association of Negro Musicians competition. “I’ve heard of too many young, prodigiously gifted pianists not having the opportunities that people who don’t look like them have. That is why we’re also focused on mentoring...I think there have been young pianists who’ve come up, are professionals and still don’t see that their opportunities matched their gifts.”

Pratt’s multi-faceted career has led him to several exciting engagements in 2022, beginning with his opera conducting debut with the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess starring Rhianna Giddens at Greensboro Opera. In March he joins the Cincinnati Pops orchestra to premiere a new piano concerto by rising African American composer Jessie Montgomery before gearing up for this summer’s Art of the Piano Festival. “It is evolving....What’s important now is creativity and fostering that in young people,” Pratt says about the festival. “I think that Art of the Piano has gotten itself into an amazing position as one of the premier festivals for pianists within these 10 years.”

About CCM Piano Studies

Piano study at CCM emphasizes the development of pianistic, musical, performing and teaching skills.

All degree programs are designed to integrate the great traditions of the past with the development of skills necessary for the demands of the music profession in the 21st century. The various degree programs are rigorous in their challenges, while retaining flexibility in order to address each student's relative strengths and weaknesses on an individual basis. Piano students at CCM can avail themselves of the enormous variety of programs offered by the college and the university to supplement the core music curriculum.

The philosophy of the CCM Piano Department is one of strong reliance on the mentoring process, by which the students' private teachers guide them both pianistically and musically, and advise them in all aspects of their overall education and development. Our goal is to prepare our students to excel in the demands of college life as well as to prepare them for the rigors of today's professional world.

Feature image at the top: Awadagin Pratt. Photo/Provided.

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Jaime Sharp

CCM Graduate Assistant, Marketing + Communications

Jaime Sharp is a master's student studying Vocal Performance at CCM. She serves as the Vice President of the CCM Graduate Student Association and Student Liaison for the CCM DEI Committee. Jaime holds a bachelor's from the University of Michigan.