The old joke is “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” Well, 14 year-old Tristan Das Eiras of Vankleek Hill did practice, practice, practice, and he did get to Carnegie Hall.

“This was completely by chance,” is how he describes how the journey began to play on February 6 at the famed New York concert hall. In October 2022, the accomplished pianist was at the Steinway Piano Gallery in Ottawa and was playing Prelude by Maurice Ravel on one of the on-display pianos made by the respected manufacturer. Employee Jennifer Messer told him it was a very rare piece and invited him to enter the Crescendo Piano Competition.

Tristan decided to enter, and three weeks of vigorous practice followed. In November 2022, he went back to the Steinway gallery in Ottawa and auditioned. Tristan was one of 4,600 pianists around the world who auditioned, and only the top two entries from Ottawa were selected. He placed second.

One more rehearsal in Ottawa followed, at a frenzied time for Tristan. He was also completing his Royal Conservatory of Music Level Eight piano examination that same month. He passed with honours.

One could easily assume Tristan has been playing piano since before he could read and write. In fact, he has only been playing for six years. He began taking lessons at the urging of his grandfather Roger Poupart of Valleyfield. His teacher is Ian Hepburn of Vankleek Hill.

On February 16, Tristan, along with his mother Nathalie Poupart, father Nelson Das Eiras, Hepburn, and Jennifer Messer and Seirra Haynes of the Ottawa Steinway gallery travelled to New York. Tristan had only one opportunity to practice at a rehearsal studio before his Crescendo Piano Competition performance at Carnegie Hall.

At the competition, very few actual awards are handed out, and most of them go to younger competitors. Tristan was not among those who received an award envelope. A select few were awarded with the privilege to go on an exchange to Japan.

Due to the competition’s connection with Steinway and Sons, part of the visit to New York included a tour of the storied company’s piano factory. Tours of the facility are a privilege, because applications are required and then the company decides if the applicant shall be invited for a tour. The visitors from Vankleek Hill got to see pianos handmade from Sitka Spruce, grown in Alaska. It is no high-speed assembly line at Steinway. It takes a year to make an entirely new piano, and just six are completed each day.

Tristan plans to enter the Crescendo Piano Competition again, and he certainly has other plans.

“I would like to attend either the Paris or Leipzig Conservatory,” he said.

Tristan’s academic plans include a doctorate in conducting or a doctorate in composition and theory.

Tristan is also a composer. He has composed 60 pieces of music on his own and has seven copyrights. One of them is a Rondo he composed for the Shriner’s Hospital in Montréal. It is copyrighted in the name of the hospital, so royalties act as a fundraiser for the facility.

Tristan Das Eiras at the stage entrance of Carnegie Hall where he performed on February 19. Submitted photo