Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Eleven-Year-Old Plays Like an 'Old Soul'
Tristan Boloix says he loves the feeling he gets when he feels as if he’s part of the music.
Wednesday, November 6, 2019


He was named Tristan after the romantic, heroic iconic figure in Wagner’s love story “Tristan and Isolde.”

By the time he was 3, he was listening to full operas, watching DVDs of operas while he sucked on his baby bottle and throwing a fit if his Dad didn’t have the right Wagner tape in the car. And, when Wagner expert Stefan Mickisch sang excerpts from operas over schnitzel one night in Vienna, Tristan correctly guessed each character and scene.

Now, 11-year-old Tristan Boloix is preparing to be the featured guest pianist when the Wood River Orchestra presents a free fall concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, at the Wood River High School Performing Arts Center in Hailey.

Tristan Boloix played Bach’s English Suite and Chopin’s Mazurka Opus 17 for French pianist Jean Yves-Thiebaudet, who gave him a memorable masterclass—in French—on both works. Thiebaudet served a residency this past with the Sun Valley Music Festival.

Boloix will perform the Andante un poco Adagio from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 6. It’s a hauntingly beautiful piece taking listeners from light to heart wrenching that Mozart composed when he was 20.

“Tristan is a fine musician, and I know the community will be made proud by his performance,” said Orchestra Conductor Brad Hershey.

Boloix is no stranger to music. His father Frederic Boloix, who owns a fine arts gallery in Ketchum, studied at the Vienna Music Academy, now the Vienna Music University, and played trombone in symphony orchestras and operas throughout Europe for 15 years.

The elder Boloix, who also plays piano and the Vienna horn—an ancestor of the French horn--also performed with the Sun Valley Music Festival for eight years.

Tristan Boloix first picked up the violin at 4 but switched to the piano at 5 after breaking his arm. He now practices an hour a day on one of the family’s four pianos--two grand pianos, an upright piano and an electric keyboard.

“He has almost as many pianos as he has skis,” his father quipped.

Tristan’s favorite is an 1898 Kewazinga Bubinga Steinway, distinguished by its red African wood, that his father purchased from an art collector who was going to sell it at auction.

“It sounds warmer than modern pianos, which often sound a little more metallic,” said Tristan.

Frederic Boloix taught his son his first chords before transferring teaching responsibilities to Joel Bejot, the music director at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Tristan now studies under Ukraine-born instructor Elena Watson, who studied piano in the severe, exacting Russian system, which churns out orchestras famous for their somewhat dramatic and bombastic play.

This is not the first time Tristan has performed for an audience. He has performed at several talent  shows at Hemingway STEAM School. And last November he performed Chopin’s hauntingly beautiful Mazurka Opus 17 No. 4, a work known to be among Chopin’s most challenging, at the opening of the Argyros Performing Arts Center.

“It was awesome when I saw all the people in the audience. And it was awesome to be performing in a lineup of other really good musicians,” he said.

He also placed third in his first piano competition—the Steinway Junior Competition-- in Boise in July, even though he was the youngest in his age group. He played Bach’s English Suite no. 3 Prelude, a  demanding piece written for two hands as if there were an orchestra accompanying a keyboard soloist

“It was totally unexpected as the others had played with orchestras and in recitals,” said Fredric Boloix. “But Tristan has an innate knack for deciphering the emotional content of what he’s playing. He’s kind of an old soul. He hears something and immediately knows how he wants to perform it.”

Indeed, it was the emotional content that turned Tristan on to the Wagner operas.

“I liked how loud and emotional they are. And I fell in love with some of the characters—the lore and story behind them,” he said. “I also like Bach a lot—his works are technical, mathematical, interesting with lots of complex harmonics and variations going on.”

Tristan also likes Chopin because of the emotional content and story within his compositions.

“You can think of something happening in the context of the piece and picture what’s going on,” he said. “A piece might start out with a sad memory of something, then it gets exciting and difficult and extravagant.”

Sunday will be the first time Tristan has performed with an orchestra.

“To have violins play the lead into my part is really cool. It makes me feel important. It’s like floating on top of the accompaniment,” he said. “And it’s really nice to be with other people who play music. It makes it a better experience. It makes me want to go harder.”

While already an “old soul” at music, Tristan has a wide range of interests from playing soccer to reading mythology and history. Able to speak English, French and Spanish, he’s made 12 trips to Europe, including Iceland and the south of France where his mother Aurelie grew up.

His knowledge of the world served him well as he represented Blaine County in the Nat Geo Geography Bee.

He’s going for his black belt in Soo Bahk Do and he competes on the Wood River Mountain Bike team and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Nordic prep team. 

“The preparation and work you put in is very similar whether you’re preparing for a Nordic race or preparing for a concert like the one coming up on Sunday,” said Tristan. “There’s certain things you’ve got to do to perform to the best of your ability. You have to concentrate and commit to it. And you have to tell yourself, ‘You’re going to be good.

“When I sit down to the piano, I just try to feel kind of calm and focused, wanting to do well. I don’t goof off because then my mind would not be centered and open. And I always want to give the best performance I can.”









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