Today in 1964, Van Cliburn conducted at Interlochen

Aug 26, 2015

Van Cliburn's visit that year produced a recording of Serenade to Music that wound up on a record produced by RCA Victor. It was called Van Cliburn Conducts.

Cliburn visited Interlochen throughout the 1960s. But his show with the Interlochen Youth Orchestra had a last minute problem. There was no choir.

Interlochen’s archivist, Byron Hanson, says the concert was scheduled for the week after camp let out and by that time most of the choir had gone home. So they had to assemble a choir from the community.

“We went on the radio and would talk to folks from Traverse City, would say, ‘If you'd like to sing in this festival performance we would love to have you,’” Hanson recalls. "We had folks coming in from the state park, I mean, it was unbelievable.”

Van Cliburn himself recruited a college student to be the soprano soloist. She thought at first he was a friend playing a practical joke.

Cliburn was a superstar. His fame skyrocketed after winning the first annual International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 at age 23.

Byron Hanson says he repeatedly came to Interlochen to work with students because he understood the mission of its founder, Joe Maddy.

“He believed in what Dr. Maddy was doing here,” says Hanson. “He was just so sold on that idea that he wanted to perpetuate that in anyway that he could.”

Norma Lee Browning, author of Joe Maddy of Interlochen, said that “it was the way Van returned their tribute which made the young musicians play their hearts out for him.”