Bates, Leon, black American pianist; b. Philadelphia, Nov. 3, 1949. He began studying piano and violin when he was 6, and at 7 he gave his first piano recital in Philadelphia. From 1962 to 1967 he was a pupil of Irene Beck at the Philadelphia Settlement Music School; subsequently was a student of Natalie Hinderas at the Esther Boyer Coll. of Music at Temple Univ. in Philadelphia. In 1969 he won the senior student audition of the Philadelphia Orch., and in 1970 he made a highly successful debut with that orch. under Ormandy’s direction as soloist in Ravel’s G Minor Concerto. In later seasons, he appeared as a soloist with various orchs., as a recitalist, and as a chamber music artist. While blessed with a virtuoso technique, Bates is also capable of the most refined playing. His repertoire is one of great diversity, ranging from the classics to the moderns. He has made a special effort to program works outside the mainstream, including 19th and 20th century American scores, jazz, and works by black and women composers. In 1992 he was soloist in the premiere of Hailstorck’s First Piano Concerto.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire