The Cliburn Piano Competition is a prestigious classical piano competition that holds in Fort Worth Texas every four years. The Cliburn comprises of international tournaments, academic programs and concert series that all contribute towards discovering upcoming artists and helping them achieve excellence.

The Cliburn first held in Texas in 1962 and was a brainchild of Van Cliburn who at his peak was a famous American concert pianist. Van Cliburn won the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958 and became extremely popular.  He used his legacy to start the contest as a way to increase the reach of classical music.  The Van Cliburn has since earned a reputation as a musical competition that helps to develop long-lasting relationships between artists and their host community and promote southern hospitality.

Competition Format

The Cliburn is made up of three rounds of recital programs, new work, chamber music, and two concertos.  All the participants go through the rounds until a winner emerges. The first prize winner earns about $50,000 in cash prizes, three years of career management and paid professional engagements to help him or her start a career. The finalists also get a recording deal with Universal Music Group and a professional promotion package that includes press releases, videos and a website to help them start their career on the right foot. The competition is open to pianists around the world with the last two rounds usually streamed live to a global audience. The jury is generally made up of between six and ten professional artists and academic dignitaries who have the job of deciding who is worthy of the top prizes.

In 2015, a junior version of the Cliburn Competition was introduced to attract the best teen piano players globally to compete for honors and a chance to earn professional support and mentorship. Like the senior competition, the juniors also go through solo rounds to trim the field and the finalist then perform alongside the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra for a chance to win fabulous prizes and career mentorship.  More information about Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition.

Past winners of the Cliburn Competition have gone on to win other competitions and make remarkable careers for themselves. A noteworthy example is Vadym Kholodenko who won the 2013 edition of the tournament went on to perform over 50 concerts after his debut season and worked with industry greats around the world from China to Finland, France, and Switzerland. He also went on to release piano albums and recordings that have done well for him.
The good news is the 2017 Gold Medalists, a 28-year-old pianist from South Korea, Yekwon Sunwoo is performing in Houston on Thursday, April 25th, 2019 at the Hobby Center. For more information about his concert please visit the SPA – Society for the Performing Arts

The Cliburn has a mission to contribute earnestly to the advancement of classical piano music in the United States and around the world. The Cliburn Foundation also holds educational programs, mentorship programs, concert series, and many other activities in conjunction with the community of Fort Worth to help spread the performance and education of classical piano musicians around the world.

For more information please call Maggie Pollio – Houston Piano Consultant at 832.594.7267 or