Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn, Jr., or Van Cliburn, made his home in Kilgore with his mother and father, Rildia Bee and Harvey Lavan Cliburn, Sr. Van's mother, a great pianist herself, could see the talent he had. At the age of 3, he was playing Chopin by ear, according to texasstandard.org.

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East Texas Music Prodigy

His parents built him a practice studio at their home. Van would spend three to fours a day honing his craft. Upon graduating high school at 17, he moved to New York and enrolled in Juilliard.

In 1958, Van entered the Moscow International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. A year earlier was when Russia launched Sputnik, making them the first country to have a satellite in space. It was also the height of the Cold War, making Cliburn's victory at the competition a huge win for the United States.

Ticker Tape Parade

Upon his return home, Van Cliburn received a ticker tape parade down Broadway in New York. To this day, he is the only musician to have received the honor.

The May 19, 1958 cover of Time magazine called Van Cliburn "The Texan Who Conquered Russia."

Time Magazine / Robert Vickery
Time Magazine / Robert Vickery

East Texas History

Van Cliburn passed away at his home in Forth Worth in 2013, according to the New York Times. Of all the musicians that could have received the honor of a New York, Broadway, ticker tape parade; a Texan, an East Texan, is the only one to have had the confetti rained upon them.

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