Olga Kern

Olga Vladimirovna Kern (Russian: Ольга Владимировна Керн; born Olga Pushechnikova,[1] 23 April 1975)[2][3] is a Russian-American classical pianist.

Olga Kern
Olga Kern
Background information
Born (1975-04-23) 23 April 1975
Moscow, Russia
LabelsHarmonia Mundi

Early life

Olga Kern was born on 23 April 1975 in Moscow into a family of musicians. Her parents are both pianists, and she is related to the Russian socialite and memoirist Anna Petrovna Kern. Her great-grandmother was the mezzo-soprano Vera Pushechnikova.[4] Kern began studying piano at age five with Professor Evgeny Timakin at the Central Music School of Moscow and gave her first concert at age seven in the same city. She won her first international competition, the Concertino Praga Competition, at age 11 in the Czech Republic. At 17, she won first prize at the first Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition. While in school, she received an honorary scholarship from the President of Russia Boris Yeltsin in 1996.[1]


Early career

Kern continued her studies at the Moscow Conservatory with Professor Sergei Dorensky and continued her postgraduate studies at the same school. She also studied with Professor Boris Petrushansky at the Accademia Pianistica 'Incontri col Maestro' in Imola. She adopted her mother's surname, Kern, professionally as her international career developed.[1] From 1989 to 1994, Kern held a scholarship with the “New Names” Foundation.

Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

Kern attained international prominence when she became the first woman in over thirty years to receive the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Gold Medal in the Eleventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June 2001. She appears in three documentaries about the competition: Playing on the Edge (2001), They Came to Play (2008), and The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold. An additional documentary was made about Kern following the 2001 Van Cliburn competition, titled Olga's Journey (2003).[5]


Besides performing, Kern is an active music pedagogue, and has conducted master classes at such locations as Yale University, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and New York City's 92nd Street Y.[6] Kern has been a jury member for several international competitions including Grand Prix Animato in Paris, France; the Scottish International Piano Competition in Glasgow, Scotland;[7] Amadeus Competition in Brno, Czech Republic;[8] and the Top of the World International Piano Competition in Tromsø, Norway.[9] Kern was jury chairman for the Seventh Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition in June 2016.[10]

Kern is a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences’s Division of the Arts. She was artistic director of the Cape Town Summer Festival from 2006 to 2011 and frequently returns.[11] In September 2017, Kern joined the piano faculty of the Manhattan School of Music.

Olga Kern International Piano Competition

In 2016, Kern launched the Olga Kern International Piano Competition for pianists between the ages of 18 and 32.[12] Taking place every three years in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the competition's mission is to "provide the venue for young pianists to develop international careers through a competition that is recognized globally for its value and excellence."[13] Kern serves as Artistic Director and President of the Jury.

The inaugural competition took place in Albuquerque November 13–20, 2016. Twenty-two contestants representing fourteen countries were chosen from submitted video auditions and judged by Kern along with eight other internationally-recognized judges.[14] The competition gave away a total of $30,000 in prize money with the winner receiving $11,000 along with a professional recording on the Steinway & Sons Label and tours throughout Europe and the United States. Vladimir Kern conducted the finalist concert with the New Mexico Philharmonic.[15]

In honor of the festival and of Kern, Albuquerque mayor Richard Berry issued an executive order declaring November 20 "Olga Kern Day," coinciding with the final day of the competition.[16]

Olga Kern International Piano Competition Awards

YearFirst PrizeSecond PrizeThird PrizeFourth Prize
2016 Chen Guang (China) Anna Dmytrenko (Ukraine) Anastasiya Naplekova (Ukraine) Joshua Rupley (United States)


In 2012, Kern established the “Aspiration” foundation with her brother, conductor, composer, and teacher Vladimir Kern. The aim of the foundation is to provide financial and artistic assistance to developing young musicians throughout the world.


1986 Concertino Praga International Piano Competition 1st Prague
1993 Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition 1st Moscow, Russia
1996 Viotti International Piano Competition 2nd Vercelli, Italy
1996 Unisa International Piano Competition 4th Pretoria, South Africa
1999 Ettore Pozzoli International Piano Competition 1st Seregno, Italy
1999 Beijing International Piano Competition 3rd Beijing, China
1999 Dino Ciani International Piano Competition 2nd Milan
2000 Pinerolo International Piano Competition 1st Pinerolo, Italy
2000 Cantù International Piano Competition 1st Cantù, Italy
2000 Hamamatsu International Piano Competition 3rd Hamamatsu, Japan
2001 Morocco International Piano Competition 1st Casablanca
2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition 1st Fort Worth, TX
2017 Ellis Island Medal of Honor[18] - United States


2001 The Cliburn: Playing on the Edge Peter Rosen Productions DVD
2001 Gold Medalist: 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Harmonia Mundi
2003 Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 Harmonia Mundi
2005 Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata No. 2; Balakirev: Islamey Harmonia Mundi
2006 Rachmaninoff: Transcriptions; Corelli Variations (GRAMMY nominated)[19] Harmonia Mundi
2006 Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 Harmonia Mundi
2007 Brahms: Variations Op. 21, 24, 35 Harmonia Mundi
2010 They Came to Play Docurama Films DVD
2010 Chopin: Piano Sonatas 2 & 3 Harmonia Mundi
2011 Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg Decca DVD
2012 Rachmaninoff: Cello Sonata (with Sol Gabetta) Sony Classical

Personal life

Kern lives in New York City.[4] Her son is Vladislav Kern, who also plays the piano and graduated from Juilliard’s Pre-College School in May 2016.[20]


  1. Marianne Lipanovich (2012-04-12). "Olga Kern: Pleased Champion, Proud Mother". San Francisco Classical Voice. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
  2. "The Cliburn". www.facebook.com. 23 April 2012. Retrieved 2019-12-17. A Very Happy Birthday today to 2001 Cliburn Gold Medalist Olga Kern!
  3. "Eleventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Program Book (2001)". Issuu. p. 88. Retrieved 2019-12-17. Age 26
  4. Sarah Bryan Miller (2010-11-21). "Pianist Kern to make St. Louis Symphony Orchestra debut". Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  5. James R Oestreich (2004-05-09). "A Pianist Who's On Her Way Up". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
  6. "What's On" (PDF). Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  7. "The 2017 Competition Jury". Scottish International Piano Competition. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  8. "News: Olga sits on the jury for the Amadeus Competition in Brno". Olga Kern. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  9. "Members of the Jury". Top of the World International Piano Competition. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  10. Lowry, Mark. "2016 Cliburn Amateur Competitors". Theater Jones. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  11. "Hollywood Bowl: Olga Kern". Retrieved 2014-02-28.
  12. "Olga Kern International Piano Competition Launches". Musical America. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  13. "The Olga Kern International Piano Competition". Olga Kern International Piano Competition. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  14. Sullivan Isaacs, Gregory. "Cliburn winner Olga Kern launches namesake piano competition in New Mexico". Star Telegram. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  15. Roberts, Kathaleen. "Pianists from around globe to compete in Olga Kern competition". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  16. Carlson, Carolyn. "We're Dancing in the Show!". Alibi. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  17. "Olga Kern: the first woman in the Van Cliburn Olga Kern: the first woman in the Van Cliburn". Ma Ni Magazine. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  18. https://www.congress.gov/crec/2018/01/16/CREC-2018-01-16-pt1-PgE48.pdf
  19. "Steinway & Sons Welcomes Olga Kern to Artists' Roster". Steinway. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  20. Nyffeler, Jann. "Olga Kern: RPO soloist, Van Cliburn gold medalist, mom". Democrat and Chronicle. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
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