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On Inauguration Day, A Few North Texas Piano Fans Are Watching From Russia

Bill Zeeble
Here's what mid-January Moscow looks like while the United States inaugurates a new president.

MOSCOW — While Donald Trump was taking the oath of office in Washington, D.C. Friday, a group of North Texans was getting a long-distance perspective — from the streets and concert halls of Russia.

Organizers and fans of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition traveled from Fort Worth to Moscow this week to watch auditions for the prestigious contest.

After months of controversy about Russian influence on last fall's election and the incoming Trump administration, they said Moscow was a bit of a strange place to be.

“For me I’ve never been away from inauguration, so a lot of of this is serendipity," said Tom Featherstone of Dallas. "This was a chance to actually to listen to some great pianists at this wonderful conservatory.  The timing of the election and the inauguration is just coincidence.”

Another traveler, Elizabeth Barron, said, "Music is about bringing people together, and I do think about what happened when Van Cliburn came here, and that’s what we’re all about."

Cliburn, a Fort Worth pianist, made his name around the world by traveling to Moscow and winning the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1958 — in the middle of the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia.

He then moved back to his hometown and established the Cliburn competition. The pianist died four years ago at age 78.

After this week's auditions wrap, organizers will travel to Seoul and several other cities to hear potential competitors. The 15th edition of that contest kicks off May 25 in Fort Worth. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.