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Fort Worth Flashback: Van Cliburn Competition awards a new generation of classical masters

Posted June 2, 2013

Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

Winning the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War in 1958 brought Fort Worth pianist Van Cliburn unprecedented celebrity. The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was established shortly thereafter to perpetuate Van Cliburn’s legacy of demonstrating how classical music, in the hands of a master, has the appeal to reach across all borders.

At a dinner banquet in November 1958, friends announced their intention to offer a $10,000 first prize to be awarded by an international piano competition named in Cliburn’s honor. By 1961, the pieces were falling into place, and the Van Cliburn Foundation was officially chartered.

First held in 1962, the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition quickly established itself as an event that inspires and engages the local community, while gracing the international stage. The Cliburn Competition is one of the few musical events in the world to arrange for competitors to stay with host families, often resulting in close, long-term relationships.

From its inception, it has been the mission of the Van Cliburn Foundation to identify and sustain the young talents of classical music. The first prize cash award has been raised to $50,000 for the 2013 Competition.

This image is from a 1961 pamphlet outlining what the new Van Cliburn Competition is about, how it came to be and where it would be held.

The Fort Worth Library has approximately 10,000 items pertaining to the history of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. These items include city and county government documents, newspapers, directories, cemetery association records, maps as well as popular and scholarly books written by local authors or about local subjects. To learn more, call 817-392-7740 or email the Genealogy, History and Archives Section.

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