Cliburn Legacy Society Article.


From the age of six, William J. Bryan was fascinated by pianos. That fascination took him to Julliard, to a Fulbright scholarship in Paris, and to four years as an itinerant teacher of school assembly programs across the United States.

There followed twenty-eight years teaching music appreciation at Foothill College in Los Altos, California. "We were a kind of prep school for Stanford," Bryan said at his home near Granbury. One of the people who audited his Foothill College classes was Marina Derryberry, who had just started teaching a young Jon Nakamatsu. Bryan and Derryberry renewed that friendship during the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competetion. Nakamatsu, of course, won the gold medal.


Bryan at Cliburn Gala with Cynthia Young,the
Development Director for the Van Cliburn Foundation
and now with the Dallas Opera.

A month later, Bryan bought the Granbury house. "So I could be close to the music," he said. "Because of Cliburn Concerts and the two symphonies, there are more good piano concerts in North Texas than there are in San Francisco."

Bryan settled into a life spent partly in Texas and partly in California. "I had some property, which I put into a charitable remainder trust," he said. "The property sold and the money stayed in the trust. After I had been here in Texas for a while, I decided to make the Van Cliburn Foundation beneficiary of the remainder." In April, 1999, he signed the papers to make it official.

The charitable remainder trust pays Bryan a dividend each year. Upon his death, what remains in the trust will be divided among three institutions that Bryan loves. The Van Cliburn Foundation will receive half.

"I think it is very appropriate," Bryan told Foundation Director of Development Cynthia Young. "Real things are happening at the Cliburn. Good things. I took this step with great consideration and believe it is the right thing for me and the right thing for the Cliburn. Other people should consider it."

Bryan has countless stories about music and the piano he loves, about the people who created the music and those who play it now. One part of his legacy is a memoir he is writing about good music, and good friends. Another part of his legacy goes to the Van Cliburn Foundation and will help keep music playing for generations to come. As Bryan noted while pouring a glass of his delightful homemade wine, "Where there is music, you will always find good friends."

The Van Cliburn Foundation is fortunate to have found such a good music friend in William J. Bryan and is very grateful for the gift.