In 1963, 16 year old Andre Watts won a piano competition to play in the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concert at Lincoln Center, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Within weeks of the contest the renowned conductor tapped Watts to substitute for the eminent but ailing pianist Glenn Gould, for a regular performance with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The performance was televised nationally, with Watts playing Liszt’s E-flat Concerto, and his career was launched.
Born in Germany to an American soldier and a Hungarian mother, he grew up on military bases. At age 8, his family moved to Philadelphia. Following his 1963 performance, he won a Grammy in 1964 (at age 17) for Best New Classical Artist.
Since the 1960s, he has maintained a busy concert schedule. Along the way, he played for President Nixon’s first inaugural concert, graduated from college, been featured on PBS Live from Lincoln Center, toured Japan and Europe and the US. At age 26, he received an honorary doctorate from Yale. In 2004, he was appointed to the music faculty at the University of Indiana. At age 70, he still performs concerts. In 2011, he received the National Medal of the Arts.