Olga Kern

With a vivid onstage presence, dazzling technique, and keen musicianship, pianist Olga Kern is widely recognized as one of the great artists of her generation, captivating fans and critics alike.

She was born into a family of musicians and began studying piano at the age of 5. At 17, she was awarded First Prize at the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition. In 2001, she jump-started her U.S. career, winning a historic Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas—the first woman to do so in more than thirty years. 

A Steinway Artist, Olga is a laureate of a number of international competitions. In 2016, she was Jury Chairman of both the Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition and the First Olga Kern International Piano Competition, where she also held the title of Artistic Director. In December 2021, Olga was Jury Chairman of the 1st Chopin Animato International Piano Competition in Paris, France. In coming seasons, she will continue to serve on the juries of a number of other high-level competitions. Olga frequently gives master classes, and since 2017 has served on the piano faculty of Manhattan School of Music. Also in 2017, Olga received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (New York City). In 2019, she was appointed the Connie and Marc Jacobson Director of Chamber Music at the Virginia Arts Festival. 

Olga has performed with many prominent orchestras, including the St. Louis Symphony, Pacific Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Detroit Symphony, and the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.) as well as the Czech Philharmonic, La Scala Symphony Orchestra, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Iceland Symphony, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, Tokyo’s NHK Symphony Orchestra, and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. She was also a featured soloist on U.S. tours with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in 2018 and 2022, and during the 2017/2018 season, she served as artist-in-residence at the San Antonio Symphony. Highlights of the 2021/2022 season included performances with the Austin Symphony, Palm Beach Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Santa Rosa Symphony, Greensboro Symphony, Madison Symphony, New Mexico Philharmonic, Concerto Budapest Symphony Orchestra, and the Academia La Scala Orchestra. She appeared as a soloist on a U.S. tour with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine and gave recitals in Savannah, Sunriver, Huntsville, Fort Worth, Carmel, and Minneapolis as well as in Europe in Portugal, Poland, and Sweden. 

In 2012, Olga established the Kern Foundation “Aspiration” to help young, talented musicians all over the world. 

Olga’s discography includes a Harmonia Mundi recording of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Christopher Seaman; her GRAMMY®-nominated disc of Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations and other transcriptions; and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Warsaw Philharmonic and Antoni Wit. Other notable releases include Chopin’s Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3 and SONY’s release of the Rachmaninoff Sonata for Cello and Piano with Sol Gabetta. Olga released a new CD in 2022 on the Delos label of Brahms and Shostakovich quintets with the Dali Quartet. 

Olga is featured in award-winning documentaries about the 2001 Cliburn Competition: The Cliburn: Playing on the Edge, They Came to Play, and Olga’s Journey.

“Sheer talent does not come more transparently.”

Bryce Morrison, Gramophone

“Call it star quality—music likes Kern the way the camera liked Garbo. Her electricity at the keyboard is palpable, and though she generates it from the music itself, as it flows through her fingers, it takes on fresh voltage that is unmistakably hers.”

Ronald Broun, The Washington Post

Olga Kern is the Artistic Director, President of the Jury, and a Founder of the Olga Kern International Piano Competition.