Van Cliburn made his first visit to Interlochen in 1961 to perform with the World Youth Symphony Orchestra. At 27 years old, he was just beginning a strong lifetime advocacy for youth arts education. During this visit he took interest in campers' many talents. Although most personally experienced with music, he was passionate about arts education in its many forms. He spent time with campers studying dance and visual arts during his summer visits, and also invested in the future of Interlochen as a trustee from 1963 - 2004.
Interlochen was a place where Cliburn was inspired by campers’ dedication, and a place he chose to return for 18 consecutive summers to work and perform with students. To express these feelings he scrawled letters of thanks to the campers of Interlochen.
“The power of Music and Art is the force for the hours of inspiration we together share, not only now but for all our lives.”
-- Van Cliburn, July 16, 1965 - Letter to Campers