Freshman Aaron Kurz is currently a pianist for the Van Cliburn Foundation, a foundation that promotes world-class artists.
“I am very appreciative that the Van Cliburn Foundation has selected me as a pianist and it is an even greater honor that I am their youngest performer,” Aaron said. The other members of the foundation are adults.
“Aaron was chosen after his performances were viewed on YouTube by the Artistic Director of the Foundation who felt he would be a good representative of the Van Cliburn Foundation,” Theresa Kurz, Aaron’s mom, said. “(Aaron) was actually offered the job during the intermission of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in May 2009”.
Aaron is part of an outreach program called “Musical Awakenings,” where he performs for elementary school children. This program “introduces the excitement of live piano performances to students at public schools and features a facilitator and guest pianist who inspire students with interactive, age appropriate keyboard presentations within the context of classical piano repertoire,” Mrs. Kurz said.
Students will watch Aaron’s hands on a projector for a complete 45-minute presentation. There is also a designated time for students to ask any questions that they may have for Aaron. “The goal is for children to learn about classical music and composers within a historical and cultural context,” Mrs. Kurz said. “The program enables students to approach music through multiple intelligences and addresses the ’national standards’ in the arts for music education.”
Aaron said that he is very excited and honored to be a part of the Van Cliburn Foundation. “I am extremely grateful that such a prestigious competition would choose me to perform for their Foundation,” he said.
Aaron’s teacher for the past four years is Carol Leone, Chairman of the Keyboard Department of Southern Methodist University (SMU) Meadows School of the Arts. “She has chosen what competitions Aaron should enter and is brilliant in her decisions regarding which pieces Aaron should learn and perform,” Mrs. Kurz said. “She is also very patient and understands what music that Aaron is capable of learning and when he is ready to learn it.”
Aaron has been studying piano since he was a toddling three-year-old. When he first started playing, he practiced every day for five minutes. “He now logs about 18 hours a week during the school year, and more during the summer,” Mrs. Kurz said.
“The love and support of his mom and dad, as well as his brother keep, Aaron’s music-making joyful and confident,” Dr. Leone said. Aaron said he loves performing. “I really enjoy the thrill of performing in front of people, and competing is also incredibly exhilarating because of what is usually at stake.” Aaron continues his hard work and looks forward to begin performing for elementary schools from December to February as a part of the “Musical Awakenings” program.
“Aaron’s hard work is fueled by his passion and enthusiasm, as well as his formidable talent,” said Dr. Leone. After his studies in piano began, Aaron started composing minuets and other short pieces. Then, in Aug. 2002, the almost-seven-year-old Aaron was named Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Kid of the Month. He also performed on FOX TV’s “Good Day” Morning Show. His video can be viewed on YouTube, called “Eleven year old pianist performs on morning talk show.” Aaron has many other videos on YouTube of his performances. “His channel now has over 365,000 hits and he has a worldwide subscriber and friend list,” Mrs. Kurz said.
Aaron has competed in many competitions, won multiple prizes and performed numerous times. Aaron shared what he considered were his best accomplishments: in March 2007, Aaron received second place in the Junior Solo Division of the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition. Aaron performed in May 2007, at the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition, at the Carnegie Hall, when he was 11 years old. Aaron played Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op. 3, No. 2. Aaron said he worked on this piece “off and on for about two years.” He was awarded first place for his impressive performance in the competition.
Aaron’s talent has taken him across the world. When he received second place in the Viardo International Piano Competition in Oct. 2008, he was sent to play at the Salle Cortot in Paris, France.
“It was a very exciting experience to play in Paris as it is, in my opinion, one of the finest cities in the world, and also because there seems to be a great appreciation for music there,” Aaron said.