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Celebrated Piano Instructor Kaplinsky Counts Student as Cliburn Finalist

By Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter

Celebrated Piano Instructor Kaplinsky Counts Student as Cliburn Finalist

Dallas, TX –

Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: A pianist for 55 of her 58 years, Israeli-born Veda Kaplinsky was an outstanding young teenage player when she decided she really preferred teaching. Unlike other students at New York's renowned Juilliard School, she wasn't driven by competitions, big-time management or a concert career.

Veda Kaplinsky, Piano Teacher and Chair, Piano Department, Juilliard School of Music: That for some reason was never appealing, much as I loved playing. Helping others somehow did. I love communicating with people and love working with young talent. If I could be instrumental in molding a human being who's also an artist and pianist, I find this the most satisfying thing I could possibly do. There's something very creative there and long lasting, and it also takes me out of myself. I don't like being focused on myself so much and this helps me focus on others.

Zeeble: One of those is Joyce Wang, now a Cliburn finalist. Kaplinsky, now the Chair of Juilliard's Piano Department, calls teaching Wang and all her students a dream job at a school where she modestly says it's easy, because her students are already so good. For a time though, she considered a different career; that of her physician father, and brother, because she says, doctors save lives. But then some doctors talked to her.

Kaplinsky: They said our work would be nothing without people like you giving us inspiration in our off hours. It gave me a different perspective. I see how people respond to music, how someone can have a tough day and go to a concert and for two hours be transported into a different world, then come out feeling emotionally fulfilled, rejuvenated. I thought, well, we don't save lives, but do enrich them, and that's important too.

Zeeble: These days, Kaplinsky does combine some medical insights with her musical skills. Her knowledge of hand and arm muscles has helped students reach technical heights that might've been impossible, or physically harmful, otherwise. The goal, always, is musical beauty and joy. Kaplinsky remembers her parents, Holocaust survivors, whom she says derived immeasurable joy from music.

Kaplinsky: No one loved music more than they did. It created a spiritual quality that helped them overcome. Music is not only necessary it is essential for survival, spiritually. We don't need music for pure survival. But we don't want to survive as just a species.

Zeeble: Kaplinsky's student and the five other Cliburn finalists enter the last round of the Competiton in Fort Worth tonight. For KERA 90.1, I'm Bill Zeeble.


Email Bill Zeeble about this story.


For more information on the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, click here.


Visit KERA's Cliburn page for more coverage and special programs.