Pianist Jon Nakamatsu Performs Rachmaninoff In 1997, Jon Nakamatsu became the first American since 1981 to win the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He performs Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme by Corelli in Studio 4A.
NPR logo Pianist Jon Nakamatsu Performs Rachmaninoff

Pianist Jon Nakamatsu Performs Rachmaninoff

Pianist Jon Nakamatsu Performs Rachmaninoff

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Peter Schaaf

Jon Nakamatsu wasn't sure he would be able to make a living as a pianist, so he focused his energies on doing something else that was important to him — teaching high school German.

The California native kept practicing the piano, though, and eventually won the Van Cliburn Competition's amateur competition. And then he won the big one: In 1997, Nakamatsu became the first American since 1981 to win the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

He joins Performance Today host Fred Child in NPR's Studio 4A to talk about his experiences and to play Sergei Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme by Corelli.