Arts & Culture

Celebrity conductor Marin Alsop to lead 2021 Cliburn Competition jury

Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. For the Miami Herald

Celebrity conductor Marin Alsop, the first woman to serve as music director for a major American orchestra, has been named jury chairman and finals conductor for the Sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2021.

Landing Alsop, director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, is a stroke for the Cliburn. The role of jury chairman is central to the competition, which draws the world’s greatest young pianists for two weeks of direct competition webcast to viewers around the world.

Alsop also will conduct the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra for six finalists during the final round. The chairman sets the rules for the jury, oversees the selection of medalists, referees disputes and enforces ethics rules, but does not vote unless there’s a tie.

“Not only is she a powerful voice in classical music internationally and a fantastic conductor, she is also well known for her commitment to reaching new audiences and her encouragement of young artists,” Cliburn President and CEO Jacques Marquis said in a statement.

Alsop is under contract in Baltimore through 2021. In 1989, she was the first woman to win the Koussevitzky Conducting Prize from the Tanglewood Music Center, where she studied with mentor Leonard Bernstein. Besides being the first woman to serve as music director for a major American orchestra, she is the first to hold the chief conducting role at each of her three orchestras.

Alsop succeeds conductor Leonard Slatkin, who presided over the 2017 competition and conducted the final round of concertos in 2013. Before Slatkin, Fort Worth Symphony conductor John Giordano presided over 11 competitions.

The Cliburn Competition will bring the piano world to the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth May 27-June 12, 2021. For more information, see

Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 16 Texas Legislature sessions. First on the scene of a 1988 DFW Airport crash, he interviewed passengers running from the burning plane. He made his first appearance in the paper before he was born: He was sold for $600 in the adoption classifieds.
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