& Honors

Scroll to explore our list of achievements from throughout Van’s life

The Edgar M. Leventritt Award

The Leventritt Competition


At only age 20, Van Cliburn won The Leventritt Award and made his Carnegie Hall debut. The award is a highly prestigious international competition given to classical pianists and violinists.

First Annual International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition

International Tchaikovsky Competition


In 1958, Van Cliburn won first prize at the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in the capital of the Soviet Union, Moscow. After winning this prize, Cliburn became known as America’s classical music champion as his victory over his Russian competitors created cultural and political stirring in the midst of the Cold War.

Time Magazine and NYC Ticker Tape Parade

Time Magezine & New York City


After returning from Russia, Van Cliburn made the front cover of Time Magazine, with the headline reading “The Texan Who Conquered Russia.” That same year he was the first, and only, musician to be given a ticker-tape parade.

Best Classical Performance Grammy

1st and 2nd Annual Grammy Awards

1958 & 1959

At the 1st Annual Grammy Awards in 1958, Van Cliburn was nominated for Best Classical Performance and Album of the Year, winning Best Classical Performance for Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 In B Flat Minor, Op. 23.

In 1959, just one year after receiving his first Grammy Award, Van Cliburn was awarded his second Grammy for Best Classical Performance for Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3.

Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award

Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity


In 1962, Van Cliburn was awarded one of the highest honors for members of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity, the Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award. This award is given to members of the fraternity for lifelong achievement in uplifting the world through music.

Albert Schweitzer Music Award

Carnegie Hall


In 1983, Van Cliburn received the Albert Schweitzer Music Award for reflecting the ideals of Albert Schweitzer himself of “reverence for life” and for excelling in music.

Kennedy Center Honors

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts


The Kennedy Center Honors is an annual honor given in the performing arts for a lifetime of contributions to American Culture. In 2001, Van Cliburn was given this honor alongside Julie Andrews, Quincy Jones, Jack Nicholson, and Luciano Pavarotti.

Presidential Medal of Freedom

President George W. Bush


President George W. Bush presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Van Cliburn during a ceremony in the East Room in the White House on Wednesday, July 23, 2003. The President commented on the accomplishments of Van Cliburn by saying “musicians find inspiration in his example, and all of us associate the name Van Cliburn with grace, and the perfect touch at the piano.”

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

The Grammys


In 2004, Van Cliburn was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, which is considered one of the greatest achievements you can receive as a musician.

Russian Order of Friendship of Peoples

Russian President, Vladimir Putin


In 2004, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Van Cliburn the Order of Friendship of People for his major contribution to consolidating friendship and Russian-American cooperation in the field of culture.

National Medal of the Arts

President Barack Obama


President Barack Obama awarded Van Cliburn with the National Medal of the Arts in 2011 as one of the greatest pianists in the history of music and a powerful ambassador for American culture.