Famed pianist Van Cliburn, who died this week, once played the national anthem before a University of Nebraska football game.
On Sept. 22, 1990, as the Huskers were about to play the Minnesota Gophers, workers set out temporary flooring and hauled a grand piano out to the sideline – followed by Cliburn.
He had played a concert the night before at the Lied Center in Lincoln, but his playng of the anthem before the game came as a surprise. He dedicated it to the people of Nebraska and troops in Operation Desert Shield.
Don Bryant, then NU’s sports information director, said it was the first time a classical pianist had performed the national anthem before a Nebraska football game.
“We’ve had Gordon MacRae, who was a Broadway performer, and we had Joe Feeney, who was with Lawrence Welk,” Bryant said. “In 1939, Woody Herman directed the university band. But we never had a pianist before. For one thing, it’s kind of hard to get a grand piano in here.”
Though the pianist was classical, the game was not a classic. NU won 56-0.