March 3, 2022

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is reprehensible and heartbreaking. The Cliburn stands firmly against and condemns this tyranny. The Russian-born pianists who have applied for the Sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition are not officials of their government, nor is their participation in the Cliburn state-sponsored. Therefore, in the vision of our namesake and inspiration, Van Cliburn, and our mandate to support young artists—which is the very core of our mission—the Russian-born pianists will be allowed to audition for the Cliburn Competition.

The story of Van Cliburn and his Cold War victory at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow inspired the world as a testament to the transcendence of art, even at the most tense of times between two superpowers. As he himself said: “Since we know that classical music is timeless and everlasting, it is precisely the eternal verities inherent in classical music that remain a spiritual beacon for people all over the world.”

Of the 72 pianists invited to take part in next week’s Screening Auditions for the 2022 Cliburn Competition, 15 are Russian-born; eight of those currently reside in Moscow. These young, brilliant artists have worked their way through an intense and complicated situation to ensure they would be able to come to Fort Worth for their chance to compete on one of classical music’s biggest stages—for their chance to live their dreams.

They have spent the better part of their lives preparing for this opportunity. The stakes are high. One of our current applicants sent us this note this week: “I hope that the great positive impact Maestro Van Cliburn had on the course of the Cold War should be an excellent example for all the artists.” And another: “I pray we give music a chance to be the ambassador of peace and love it has always been.” We look forward to hearing each of our participants do just that.