Pianist André Watts receives Harvard's prestigious music award

André Watts
Pianist André Watts will perform with the HRO on April 27 in Sanders Theatre. Photo: David Bazemore

Date: 
Friday, April 27, 2018, 5:30 pm
Location: 
Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy Street

A concert featuring pianist André Watts, with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, conducted by Federico Cortese.

Presented by: Office for the Arts as part of the ARTS FIRST festival (April 26-29)
Admission: Free and open to the public. Tickets available at 3:30 pm at the door on April 27.

Legendary pianist and professor of music André Watts is the recipient of the 2018 Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award, Harvard’s highest music award recognizing an outstanding educator. He will receive the award in a special free concert and ceremony 5:30 p.m. on April 27 at Sanders Theatre, where Watts will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major (Emperor Concerto) with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra under the director of Federico Cortese, senior lecturer on music at Harvard University.

“André Watts rose to fame at age 16 when he performed under the guidance of Leonard Bernstein during his famed Young People’s Concerts,” said Jack Megan, director of the Office for the Arts at Harvard, which administers the award. “Shortly after that, Bernstein featured Watts in a concert with the New York Philharmonic, and the rest is history. In addition to an outstanding soloist career, Watts has shaped the musical talents and tastes of many students as a professor at the School of Music at Indiana University and as a role model of performance and pedagogy.”

Born in Nuremberg, Germany, Watts was a piano prodigy as a child. He received his first piano lessons from his mother after studying the violin. When the family relocated to Philadelphia, he began playing with the Philadelphia Orchestra at 9, and also received training at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. He made his New York Philharmonic debut at 16, under the baton of Leonard Bernstein ‘39.

With a career that spans more than 50 years, Watts has performed with the finest orchestras and conductors internationally and has made dozens of recordings for a variety of labels, including Columbia, Telarc, EMI Classics and Sony. Watts' many honors include a Grammy Award, the Avery Fisher Prize and induction into the Hollywood Bowl of Fame. In 2011, he was the recipient of a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.

“One of the great piano virtuosos of our day, André Watts is a performer with a distinctive sound, bred of elegant musicianship and powerful physicality,” said Carol J. Oja, William Powell Mason Professor in the Department of Music. “Watts has been a star of classical music for nearly 50 years, having burst on the scene in his teens as a prodigy.

At age 26 Watts was the youngest person ever to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale University, and he has since received numerous honors from highly respected schools including the University of Pennsylvania, Brandeis University, The Juilliard School of Music and his alma mater, the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. Watts was appointed to the Jack I. and Dora B. Hamlin Endowed Chair in Music at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in May 2004, and, in 2017, was named a Distinguished Professor, the highest academic rank the university bestows upon its faculty.

Admission to the Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award ceremony with Andre Watts and the HRO is free and open to the public. Tickets will be available at the door starting at 3:30 PM.

The Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award honors individuals who reflect the values and dedication to music and arts education exemplified in its namesake. Previous recipients include Gustav Meier, music director, Greater Lansing (MI) Symphony Orchestra and Greater Bridgeport (CT) Symphony; Joan Panetti, professor of music at the Yale University School of Music; Curt Cacioppo, professor of music in the Music Department of Haverford College; Phyllis Curtin, opera singer and dean emerita of Boston University’s School for the Arts; Lowell E. Lindgren, professor of music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Elma Lewis, arts educator, activist and founder of Boston’s Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts; Claire Mallardi, lecturer on dramatic arts and artistic director emerita of the Office for the Arts at Harvard Dance Program; Robert Mann, founder and first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet and a member of the Juilliard School Music Division faculty; co-recipients Mark Churchill, educator, conductor, cellist and dean of New England Conservatory’s Division of Preparatory and Continuing Education, and Marylou Speaker Churchill, violinist and member of the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music (College and Preparatory School) and the Heifetz International Music Institute; Thomas G. Everett, director of bands at Harvard University and jazz advisor to the Office for the Arts at Harvard; Sweet Honey in the Rock, the all-woman, African-American a cappella ensemble; and Aaron Dworkin, founder of Sphinx Organization.