Society / Profiles

With a Little Help from NorthPark, Carla Thompson is Making Great Classical Music Accessible in Dallas

Inside Her Work With The Cliburn

BY // 01.19.23

In its sixth year, NorthPark Center’s Ambassador program boldly merges all things fashion, art, and philanthropy. The assembly of Ambassadors ― an idea generated in tandem by Nancy A. Nasher and Kimberly Schlegel Whitman ― shines a spotlight on Dallas’ top influencers and the causes most significant and important to them. Today’s ambassador: Carla Thompson, who dedicates her focus to The Cliburn

Chosen specifically for their philanthropic endeavors, each year-long ambassadorship offers the opportunity to partner with NorthPark Center and its retailers for a variety of events and initiatives to benefit their respective charitable organizations. From a not-to-miss fashion show to a magical holiday season, NorthPark provides a platform to get the mission of these organizations out there and ignite significant impact all year long.

Kicking off the 2023 lineup on the NorthPark Ambassador list, we showcase Carla Thompson and her passion for the mission of The Cliburn. The organization focuses on advancing classical piano music throughout the world by way of international competitions, education programs, and concert series. All of which embody an enduring commitment to artistic excellence and the discovery of young artists. 

With Thompson leading the charge as an Ambassador this year,  she is helping to bring a free concert series to NorthPark Center, providing access to some of the world’s most talented musicians. And Thompson shared with PaperCity the announcement of the organization’s Junior Competition taking place in Dallas in June — tickets are on sale now.


The Cliburn’s newest major program is the ‘Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition and Festival,’ and the third edition will take place this coming June, at SMU and the Meyerson Symphony Center,” Thompson says. “We’re looking forward to welcoming the best 13- to 17-year-old pianists from around the world to Dallas.”


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Van Cliburn International Piano Competition – Semi-final and final rounds held at Bass Performance Hall
Van Cliburn International Piano Competition’s semifinal and final rounds are held at Bass Performance Hall.

Why did you choose your featured charity/non-profit organization? 

The Cliburn has been dear to me since I was a teenager. My family hosted a competitor when I was in high school, and I was immediately hooked. I’ve supported The Cliburn and have been a very active volunteer with it for the majority of my life.


Tell us about a specific memory from time spent working with or for the non-profit of your choice.

In 2011, my husband and I traveled to Moscow as representatives of the Cliburn to attend the International Tchaikovsky Competition, where Van Cliburn was serving as the honorary chairman. We encountered a chatty cab driver who told us all about Van being in town, how famous he was, and that everyone was on the lookout for him. We didn’t dare tell him we had had dinner with him the previous night.


What was it for you that first instilled the value of giving back to your community? 

My mother was a wonderful volunteer and set an example for me, and the Junior League of Fort Worth gave me insight into the Fort Worth community and a large pool of volunteers to be a part of. The Cliburn was a recipient of the League’s project funds, and my first volunteer job was calligraphing names on the Competition certificates. 


NorthPark Center is at the center of combining art and fashion. Can you describe your own personal art and fashion interests?

I love art—particularly modern art—and I’m an avid shopper.


What do you do to unwind? 



Fondest memory spent at NorthPark Center? 

Christmas holiday events and fabulous Christmas decorations for all walks of life to enjoy.


Words of advice you would give to your younger self?  

Don’t be afraid to commit yourself or your time to volunteer opportunities.  You’ll learn something new each time and grow because of that commitment. 


What’s on the horizon as you look forward to this coming year? 

2022 was an incredible year for The Cliburn. The webcast of the Competition reached unprecedented numbers around the globe, with 30 million views across 177 countries, and massively increased its social media followers. In the coming year, we’re looking forward to bringing the eyes of the world—and all of these new members of the Cliburn Family—to Dallas for the Junior Competition.

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