American classical pianist Van Cliburn died of cancer Wednesday. In 1958, Cliburn won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the age of 23. Cliburn’s abilities helped defrost the Cold War and allowed him to embark on an amazing international career. Paul Sanchez is an Assistant Professor of Piano at the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music in Wheaton Illinois. He’s originally from Sioux Falls, and studied at the Van Cliburn Piano Institute for several summers. Sanchez reflects on his thoughts when he learned of Mr. Cliburn’s passing.
“A lot of things came through my mind. I was actually teaching and one of my colleagues shared the news. Ya know, it’s incredibly sad of course. He was just a giant in so many ways and a wonderful person. I’m sure he will be missed by those that he loved and those he impacted but on a larger scale across the world, we’ve lost one of the great pianists of the 20th and 21st centuries.”
Sanchez adds Cliburn’s legacy is huge and is not just from his victory from more than 50 years ago. He says Cliburn inspired people all over the world and provided several educational opportunities for up and coming pianists.