Pianist Leon Bates whose career has spanned almost 50 years since his student days at Settlement Music School and Temple University’s Boyer College of Music has announced his retirement from touring because of Parkinson’s disease. Philadelphia Chamber Music Society will honor his legacy on December 9 at the Philosophical Society in a concert performed by fifteen of his colleagues who have collaborated with him over the years.
Mr. Bates studied with pianist Natalie Hinderas at Temple University and Irene Beck at Settlement Music School. His extraordinary talent was recognized at a young age by Sol Schoenbach, the Executive Director of Settlement Music School.
Leon won many awards including the Philadelphia Orchestra Senior Competition which led to his first performance with the orchestra. Eugene Ormandy later engaged him to perform with the Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. His engagements took him the world over and to all major halls in America including the Kimmel Center, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and in San Francisco where he was presented numerous times by Four Seasons Concerts. He performed with Lorin Maazel and the Orchestra of France and in LaScala in Milan in a program that brought the audience to their feet. His performance with conductor Tamas Vasary with the Bourmouth Symphony was a tribute to his late teacher, Natalie Hinderas.
Bates’ performances took him to every major and many smaller orchestras in the United States, Canada, Europe and Africa. Among his many awards is a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Negro Musicians, an honorary doctorate from Washington and Lee University in Virginia; the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award for his extensive work with children and the National Endowment for the Arts Solo Recital Award, among others.
In 2001, he received the Pennsylvania Artist of the Year Award from Governor Thomas Ridge. Bates often performed with conductors Paul Freeman, Jo Ann Falletta, James DePreist and enjoyed working with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops.
The Philadelphia Chamber Music Concert on December 9th Bernstein, Bates and Friends, includes the Ahn Trio performing the Bernstein Piano Trio; Dynasty Battles, pianist, a student of Leon Bates, performing the George Walker Sonata No. 1; the Borealis Wind Quintet performing Charles Lefebvre, Suite, Op. 57; The Portland String Quartet performing Ives Quartet No.1 and soprano Louise Toppin sings a group of Gershwin songs she performed with Mr. Bates for years. Joseph Joubert, a long time friend of Leon’s will accompany Miss Toppin.
Leon Bates will continue teaching and offering master classes.