FORT WORTH — Something strange happened when competitors in the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition arrived in the city last week.
None of them met Van Cliburn.
The storied pianist passed away a few months ago.
This is the first time the event is being hosted without its namesake.
"Those people who knew Van really well know he would be the first to say, 'Just play music!'" said Tomas Ungar, a noted pianist himself who now teaches at Texas Christian University.
Ungar was a friend and peer of Cliburn's who hopes the competition continues to thrive for generations of future musicians.
"I think any entity that doesn't change with the times, dies," he said.
The competition is heralded for attracting the top artists in the world.
Performances are now streamed online, giving classical piano fans from across the globe the opportunity to experience the recitals that play out at Bass Hall in downtown Fort Worth.
The event has become a way to identify top talent, but it's also a way for young pianists to experience something unlike any other in the musical world.
"You play well and you share it," said Cliburn Foundation CEO Jacque Marquis last week.
Thirty competitors from 13 countries are participating in this year's contest. A winner will be declared after the final round on June 9.