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Services Scheduled for Van Cliburn

by Anne Bothwell 28 Feb 2013 10:25 AM

KERA’s Bill Zeeble talks to friends of the pianist about his legacy.


Van Cliburn’s funeral is scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m. in Fort Worth’s Broadway Baptist Church. Cliburn’s impact runs deep in his adopted town.

Friends of the iconic musician knew Cliburn’s death was imminent. In 1958, he stunned the world with a Tchaikovsky competition victory in Russia. But they’ve known since August that he had incurable bone cancer. Carla Thompson chairs the Cliburn Foundation, said that “doesn’t change the effect of the day- pretty drastic.”

The Foundation presents Fort Worth’s once every four year International Piano Competition named for Van Cliburn. It just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Thompson says this year, the 14th competition will be dedicated to Cliburn, as it strives to continue the pianist’s legacy.

“And these competitors will come to compete. To measure up. To do what they’re striving to do. To be another Van Cliburn or to have the opportunity to have a career like Van had.”

Fort Worth resident, musician, and Cliburn competition jury chair John Giordano says the career of his 40-year friend Van Cliburn was based on one premise.

“He reached people through classical music which he dedicated his life to because he felt that classical music was important to our society and brought people together and had a message of love and hope.”

Giordano says that philosophy is among the most enduring of Cliburn’s legacies, and also inspires the competition.

“Van set the standard. And I think all of us, particularly these young pianists, they all know what he did. That tradition is going to carry on.

It will continue at the next International Cliburn Competition in May. A visitation is scheduled for Saturday at Fort Worth’s Broadway Baptist Church.