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Competition begun by a group of music teachers and other music lovers in Fort Worth, Texas, to honor and celebrate Van Cliburn's 1958 victory in the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. Now managed by The Cliburn Foundation, the contest is considered by some to be the top international piano competition in the world; it is indubitably one of the most famous and prestigious. The Cliburn was originally held on the campus of Texas Christian University and the Fort Worth Convention Center, but has relocated to the new Bass Performance Hall in downtown Fort Worth.

This is balanced by a marked lack of fame by many if not most of the Cliburn's winners. This must be viewed not so much as a weakness of the Cliburn but as an inherent shortcoming of piano competitions; in addition to the obious subjectivity of jury voting, the most talented, most-lauded concert pianists generally do not need competitions as springboards to professional success.

Nevertheless, the Cliburn is widely covered in the international media, including American public television (PBS), which creates a documentary of each competition for airing on its member stations, as well as throughout the world. This documentary is famous in its own right, as are recordings and videotapes of the tournament.

The Cliburn is, like the Olympics, held every four years. The competition is organized into three rounds, and the structure and requirements of these rounds differ greatly. The first round consists of solo recitals performed by all contestants, generally numbering 35. The Cliburn jury then decides upon 12 semifinalists, who all play a work commissioned for the Competition, as well as chamber music and other works. From this group of 12, six finalists are selected, who each play two concerti with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. The finalists compete for prize including medals, cash prizes, and concert engagements:

First Prize
Cash Award $20,000
Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medal
Lankford-Allison Memorial Cup
Debut recital at Carnegie Hall
Concert tours and career management for the two concert seasons following the Competition
Compact disc recording
Specially arranged domestic and international air travel by American Airlines

Second Prize
Cash Award $15,000
Van Cliburn Competition Silver Medal
New York recital
Concert tours and career management for the two concert seasons following the Competition
Compact disc recording

Third Prize
Cash Award $10,000
Van Cliburn Competition Bronze Medal
Concert tours and career management for the two concert seasons following the Competition
Compact disc recording

The remaining finalists and semifinalists receive cash prizes. Also awarded are "Best of" prizes, including best chamber performance and best performance of commissioned piece.

Potential contestants for the Cliburn are screened by audition, and must be under 30. A list of the gold-medal winners for the 1st through 10th editions of the competition:

1962: Ralph Votapek, USA
1966: Rada Lupu, Romania
1969: Cristina Ortiz, Brazil
1973: Vladimir Viardo, USSR
1977: Steven DeGroote, South Africa
1981: Andre-Michel Schub, USA
1985: Jose Fehgali, Brazil
1989: Alexei Sultanov, USSR
1993: Simone Pedroni, Italy
1997: Jon Nakamatsu, USA

In 1999, The Cliburn Foundation held its first International Piano Competion for Outstanding Amateurs.

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