The Music Plays On

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André Watts

The extraordinary pianist, André Watts was born to an Hungarian mother and an African American U.S. Army soldier in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1946. The family moved back to the U.S. when André was eight years old and by the age of ten was performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Watts has been a part of the American musical fabric since the early sixties when, at the age of 16, he appeared on a nationally televised Young People’s Concert on January 15, 1963, with Leonard Bernstein enthusiastically introducing him to the world.

Two weeks later, Watts stepped in for an ailing Glenn Gould and played the same Liszt concerto on a subscription series with the New York Philharmonic and it was an enormous success. Columbia Masterworks quickly released The Exciting Debut of André Watts a few months later and a star was born.

By the time he graduated in 1972 from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, he was already booked three years in advance. By the mid-seventies he had 150 concerts a year and in 1976 his solo recital on Live from Lincoln Center was the first to be aired nationwide.

In a recent article in the New York Times, it is revealed that Watts has fought through physical ailments and cancer these past years, but continues to have perseverance. With regard to racial discrimination he mentions in the article that as a half-black, half-white person he has determined “not to use any real or perceived racial prejudice as an excuse for not ‘pushing forward’ in whatever I wanted to do.” In 2011, Watts was awarded the National Medal of Arts and currently teaches at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.

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