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Richard Rodzinski to Retire from the Cliburn

by Jerome Weeks 15 Jul 2009 6:59 AM

After 23 years and six piano competitions, Richard Rodzinski will retire as president of the Van Cliburn Foundation. Rodzinski took the prestigious Fort Worth piano competition into the world of live webcasts, amateur contests and contemporary concert series. Jerome Weeks reports.



  • Star-Telegram story
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    Richard Rodzinski, president of the Van Cliburn Foundation, announced his retirement Tuesday. He led the foundation for 23 years and six competitions, bringing the prestigious Cliburn piano contest into the world of live webcasts.

    Rodzinski turns 65 in January and his current contract with the Cliburn expires in February. So a transition in the Fort Worth foundation’s leadership, he says, was not unexpected.

    RODZINSKI: “This is something that has long been in the planning. We’ve been working with a management group and we had designated 65 as a very good target for retirement.”

    But Rodzinski may leave before his contract ends. He has another opportunity, he says, that he can’t announce yet. Two other staff members recently left the foundation, but their departures aren’t related, Rodzinski says. Coming once every four years, the Cliburn competition has a cyclical nature.

    RODZINSKI: “Even though we do fill the period between competitions, it’s difficult to sustain staffs and keep them interested.”

    In his more than two decades at the Cliburn, Rodzinski says he worked to refine and innovate. Many of the competiton’s procedures simply needed fine-tuning. He instituted live worldwide auditions and he freed up the pianists’ repertoire, so they weren’t shackled to playing the same pieces. He expanded the number of commissioned new works, so the competitors had a choice. He saw the Cliburn as an audition for real careers in classical music.

    picphpRODZINSKI: “I felt the competition should be an integral part of the evolution of a musical life, basically trying to make the competition as much of a real-world experience as possible.”

    But Rodzinski also broadened the foundation’s range, establishing a contest for amateur pianists. He created the Cliburn at the Modern concert series. He produced award-winning television documentaries, and for the latest Cliburn competition, the 13th, which ended June 7, he launched unprecedented live web coverage, reaching 156 countries.

    The Cliburn Foundation announced that a search for Rodzinski’s successor will begin immediately.

    • Sevan Melikyan

      We, like the rest of the Fort Worth Arts Community, are saddened by the departure of our long-time boss, Richard Rodzinski, President of the Van Cliburn Foundation. We do, however, wish to dispel any misinterpretation of the reasons behind our own departure (the two staff members referred to), potentially caused by his comments. As veterans of 5 competitions, with a combined commitment to the Cliburn of over 28 years, boredom has never been a problem, nor has our passion for the Cliburn, and the great work it does, diminished. Our decision to leave the Cliburn was a difficult one, and based on a number of factors, including uncertainty over leadership direction, as well as an opportunity to relocate closer to family in New York. We are grateful for the friendships we have made at the Cliburn and in the greater Fort Worth community, as well as with so many gifted artists, and hope they can all appreciate and understand the difficulty of our decision. Thanks also to KERA for your continued support of the Cliburn, and for giving us the chance to set the record straight.
      Sevan Melikyan, former director of marketing, Van Cliburn Foundation
      Maria Guralnik, out-going general manager, Van Cliburn Foundation

      • Thanks much for the response. Just for clarity’s sake: In the complete context of our conversation, I believe Richard Rodzinski’s remark about the difficulties of maintaining staff at the Cliburn was more about a systemic problem with a four-year competition than a specific reference to your departure.

    • Anon Y. Mous

      As an avid fan of the Cliburn and one who knows the organization, the retirement of Mr. Rodzinski was not his choice. Look to the Chairman for clarification…