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The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold

Every four years, a group of the finest young pianists takes the stage at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. In the midst of the drama, the beauty, the nerves and the excitement, they know one thing is true — what happens there can change their lives. They strive to feel the joy of victory and achieve their utmost goal: to become a performer on the world stage. The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold airs Friday, September 28, at 9 p.m. on WKAR.

Seen through the eyes and memories of 15 gold medalists, including East Lansing's Ralph Votapek,  The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold follows the half-century-long history of one of the world's most prestigious music competitions, set against the backdrop of beautiful music. Walking onto the stage at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is a critical moment in the life of a young pianist. Gut-wrenching drama, strung-out nerves and the joy of victory are elements that make up this extraordinary film retrospective.

Emmy Award®-winning producer/director Peter Rosen tracked down the Cliburn Gold Medalists wherever they were performing around the world to weave their fascinating stories into the legend of Van Cliburn, the competition's namesake, who recalls his victory in 1958 in Moscow at the Tchaikovsky Competition at the height of the Cold War: “I had only a few months to prepare for the Tchaikovsky competition. But, in a way, my whole life had been leading up to it.”

Votapek was the first winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1962. He has since performed with hundreds of orchestras and performed on the last recording featuring Arthur Fiedler with the Boston Pops. Some of his earliest television programs were recorded at WKAR and he recently opened the Lansing Symphony Orchestra's season. Votapek has served as Artist-in-Residence at Michigan State University where he is currently Professor Emeritus of Piano at the College of Music.

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