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At the Cliburn, a Teacher Above All
by Bill Zeeble 4 Jun 2013

The 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition names its finalists today. One teacher, William Grant Nabore, is a prodigy himself who arrived in Fort Worth last week with five students in the world-class contest. Two are still in the running to be among the final six.

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The 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition names its finalists today. One teacher, William Grant Nabore, is a prodigy himself who arrived in Fort Worth last week with five students in the world-class contest. Two are still in the running to be among the final six.

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A Schubert performance helped second-time Cliburn contestant Alessandro Deljavan advance to the semi-final round. After his first effort here four years ago, he failed to make the finals, and didn’t want to try again. His mother helped convince him otherwise. So did his 71 year-old teacher.

“His presence here is, is a big power for me. Without him, I wouldn’t, you know, it’s difficult to speak now,” said Deljavan.

Deljavan had just advanced to the semi-finals, while a friend did not, so he was upset and didn’t want to talk. Teacher William Grant Nabore stood offstage, pleased about Deljavan’s success. Nabore was born in Virginia and was a child prodigy. But years ago he moved to Europe and runs the International Piano Academy in Lake Como, Italy. Since the 1997 Cliburn, he has ventured to Fort Worth to help his students in the competition.

William Grant Nabore Photo: Bill Zeeble

William Grant Nabore has had plenty to root for at this year’s competition. Photo: Bill Zeeble

“I can teach something, I can uncover something. But it’s for the young artist to take it forward. They have to play it. I don’t play it. But I can uncover and tell them maybe how to realize what they want to achieve.”

Nabore says in the case of Deljavan, the pianist has so many talents, including physical size. That let’s him deliver a gorgeous sound without forcing it.

“He has incredible emotional communication. I think that’s his greatest gift. He has unbelievable hands, really unbelievable. And great intelligence. This boy has been playing before he was speaking. So the piano is his voice. He speaks through that, but the actual formation of the hands are such that it gives him incredible facility to play the instrument.”

Nabore looks at the hands of all his students in his small school. He says his other semi-finalist at this Cliburn Competition, Tomoki Sakata, from Japan also has incredible hands.

“I’m looking for many things. The possibility of relaxation under stress. You have to understand, playing piano demands utmost relaxation, but utmost attention as well. You cannot just relax and things happen. You have to command them, and the command is in the brain. It is not in the hands, it’s in the brain,” said Nabore.

Tomoki Sakata offered his own take on nervousness and relaxation, minutes after being named a Cliburn semi-finalist.

“I’m relaxed and also I’m getting nervous because you know, we have the next stage day after tomorrow. So it’s continuing. I’m really nervous about that. I like to relax now, I’m exhausted.”

These are just some of Nabore’s pupils in this year’s Fort Worth contest. It’s the fifth Cliburn in a row with some of his students competing. In 2001, Stanislav Ioudenitch won a gold medal. Nabore says his students never pay tuition, thanks to generous donors.

“I think if I had to charge tuition for this academy, I would have to shut it down. In my idealism, I was never charged one penny to study music. People who taught me said I had a gift. And that gift was God given, so they felt they were making a contribution to music,” said Nabore.

He intends to keep making his contribution to music and hopes more of his students make it to Fort Worth four years from now.

Image outfront from Shutterstock

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