From winning the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in Moscow at the age of 23, Van Cliburn was one of the few classical musicians to achieve 'rock star status.'
- Van Cliburn's pianist mother discovered him at the age of three mimicking one of her students at the piano. She began teaching him immediately.
- At the age of 12, Cliburn won a statewide piano competition, which enabled him to debut with the Houston Symphony Orchestra.
- He entered the Juilliard School in New York at the age of 17 and made his Carnegie Hall debut at 20.
- At the height of the Cold War in 1958, Van Cliburn won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. He received an 8-minute standing ovation.
- Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York City, the only time the honour has been accorded a classical musician.
- His performance in Moscow was added to the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry on 21 March 2013 for long-term preservation.
- Cliburn's recording of the Tchaikovsky first Piano Concerto became the first classical album to sell more than 1 million copies. It was the best-selling classical album in the world for more than a decade, eventually going triple-platinum.
- Van Cliburn played for royalty, heads of state, and every U.S. president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama.
- In 1987, he was invited to perform at the White House for President Ronald Reagan and Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, and afterwards was invited to open the 100th anniversary season of Carnegie Hall.
- Cliburn died on 27 February 2013 from advanced bone cancer at the age of 78.
- The Wall Street Journal called Cliburn a "cultural hero" who 'rocketed to unheard-of stardom for a classical musician in the U.S.'
Did you know?
Cliburn was known as a night owl. He often practiced until 4:30 or 5 a.m.