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16th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition begins in Fort Worth

The Cliburn
Ralph Lauer/The Cliburn
Ralph Lauer
June 1, 2022. Cliburn Foundation President and CEO Jacque Marquis and Chairman Jeff King with the thirty competitors for The Sixteenth Cliburn International Piano Competition at the TCU Music Hall in Fort Worth, Texas.

Thirty young pianists compete for cash and professional management that can establish careers.

The 16th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gets underway today in Fort Worth. Thirty young pianists from 14 countries will vie for cash prizes worth a total of $265,000 and concert management packages worth more than $1,000,000.

The contest, usually held every four years, was delayed a year because of the pandemic. As a result, the competition ends up falling on the 60th anniversary of the first Cliburn competition, launched in Fort Worth in 1962. It was created to celebrate Van Cliburn, the pianist who won the first Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow four years earlier, at the height of cold war.

Jacques Marquis is president and CEO of the Cliburn Foundation, that oversees three competitions: this one, which launches professional careers; another for young pianists and a third, for amateurs who’ve played their entire lives out of love, not profit.

Watch the 2022 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition online.

Sixty years ago there was two main mandates," Marquis said. "First, helping young musicians, and second, sharing the music with the largest audience possible. 60 years after that, we still do the same — we open doors — your job is to keep the door open.”

These days, the entire contest, from June 2 to June 18, will be streamed live online to approximately 170 countries and roughly 10 million people.

The live audience in Fort Worth will get a different kind of treat. This is the first Cliburn competition held in Texas Christian University’s new Music Center and Van Cliburn concert hall. Later rounds will move to Bass Hall.

U.S. pianist Clayton Stephenson competed in the Cliburn Junior Competition here in 2015. Happy to be back for this contest, he’s now 23 years old, the same age Cliburn was when the Texan won.

“I've always been watching the older Cliburn competition, you know, growing up, watching everybody play,” Stephenson said. “And the bigger one is a chance for me to share my artistry with a larger audience compared to the junior. And so now I've kind of made that decision that I want to become a pianist, so this is kind of, for me, the real deal.”

It’s the same for every pianist here. They range in age from 18 to 31. The preliminary round ends Sunday when 12 of the 30 will be eliminated. The competition concludes June 18.