Van Cliburn's sensational victory at the First Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow (1958) heralded a new confidence in the quality of American music-making, as well as a new era in cultural relations between East and West. Celebrating this remarkable achievement, a group of music teachers and citizens from Fort Worth Texas created the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. First held in 1962, and repeated every four years since then, the Competition has established itself as a joyous festival dedicated to the discovery of the world's finest young pianists. 

In addition to receiving significant cash prizes, winners are awarded three years of concert management services and share hundreds of international engagements, thus fulfilling the Van Cliburn Foundation's purpose of bringing the highest quality of music to audiences everywhere. With the generous support of major American corporations and foundations, the Van Cliburn Foundation has been able to produce award-winning television documentaries about its competitions. These are aired nationally on public television and syndicated in five continents. National and international radio series regularly broadcast prize-winning performances, and major labels such as BMG, harmonia mundi, Philips, and Teldec have distributed recordings and videotapes of Cliburn Competition laureates. Since 1997, the entire competition has also been carried live on the internet.

Over the past four decades, the Van Cliburn Competition has involved hundreds of great musicians, music professionals, and dedicated individuals in its various activities. Its juries have included Jorge Bolet, Philippe Entremont, Rudolf Firkusny, Leon Fleisher, Malcolm Frager, Alberto Ginastera, Howard Hanson, Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer, Lili Kraus, Alicia de Larrocha, Dame Moura Lympany, Nikita Magaloff, Gerald Moore, John Ogdon, Cecile Ousset, Gyorgy Sandor, Harold Schonberg, Maxim Shostakovich, Soulima Stravinsky, Walter Susskind, Alexis Weissenberg, and Earl Wild. Among the conductors who have shared the stage with competitors during the final round of the Competition are Leon Fleisher, Walter Susskind, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, and Jerzy Semkow.  Maestro James Conlon conducted the final rounds of the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Competitions.

In addition to reaching new audiences around the globe through its winners' engagements, the Van Cliburn Foundation has cultivated a broad local audience for Cliburn Concerts, an annual recital series devoted to bringing the world's finest artists to North Texas. The Foundation is also committed to several educational programs that enrich children and adults through classical music. The unprecedented success of the first International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs™, launched in June 1999, resulted in the Foundation's establishing this forum for non-professional musicians thirty-five years of age and older as a quadrennial event.