Kelly: Van Cliburn played before Husker football game

Kelly: Van Cliburn played before Husker football game

By Michael Kelly March 1, 2013 9:58 am 13 comments

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.

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