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André Watts

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André Watts (born June 20, 1946) is a classical pianist and professor at the Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University.

Born in Nuremberg, Germany, Watts is the son of a Hungarian mother, Maria Alexandra Gusmits, a pianist, and an African American father, Herman Watts, a U.S. Army non-commissioned officer. Watts spent his early childhood in Europe, living mostly near army posts where his father was stationed. He began to study the violin when he was four. By six he decided the piano was his instrument. When André was eight years old, Herman’s military assignment brought the family to the United States. They settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mother started him with his first lessons. Watts disliked practicing. For encouragement, his mother would tell stories of the great pianist and composer Franz Liszt, making it clear that Liszt practiced faithfully. Watts found inspiration in Liszt, adopting his theatrical playing style. After the divorce of his parents in 1962, Watts remained with his mother, who supported the two, working as a secretary and later as a receptionist.

Watts enrolled at the Philadelphia Musical Academy (now a part of the University of the Arts), where he studied with Genia Robinor, Doris Bawden, and Clement Petrillo, graduating in June 1963. He entered his first competition at nine, with forty other children, for the opportunity to perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra Children’s Concerts. Watts won the competition playing a concerto by Joseph Haydn.

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