Awadagin Pratt is a musical triple-threat performer, being the Peabody Conservatory's first student awarded simultaneous performance degrees in three areas: piano, violin, and conducting. However, he spends the majority of his professional career as a pianist performing as soloist, as collaborator in chamber music projects, and as educator at a variety of programs, whether at schools or festivals.
Pratt's father's family in Sierra Leone valued education and everyone was taught to play piano or organ, as well as play sports. The same ideals were passed on to Pratt, who learned both piano and violin as a child, and despite being a ranked tennis player and offered sports scholarships, entered the University of Illinois at the young age of 16 to study music. After graduating from Peabody, Pratt was awarded first prize at the prestigious Naumberg Competition in 1992. He was the first African-American artist to win that honor, and it was the first time he felt financially secure as a performer. Pratt received a lot of favorable and deserved attention following this, including being signed to an exclusive contract with EMI and then receiving an Avery Fischer Career Grant in 1994. A low piano bench, dreadlocks, and dress casual performance attire are his signature, with the last intended to make classical music less intimidating to the general public. Admirers note that when he performs, the music and his interpretation take precedence over any other aspect. His first recording was titled A Long Way from Normal, referencing his childhood in Normal, IL. Other recordings include Live from South Africa, a disc of Beethoven sonatas, and 2002's Play Bach with the St. Lawrence String Quartet.