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Burbank teen pianist showcases talents on NPR

Burbank pianist Tristan Paradee, 17, recently won the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award from NPR’s “From the Top.” He performed during a taping on Nov. 17 at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Connecticut.
(Courtesy of Janelle Paradee)

The pressure of performing in a concert or competition is a daunting task for any person, especially when there are hundreds of people in the crowd and talented competitors vying for honors and attention.

However, Burbank pianist Tristan Paradee said he feeds off the pressure and uses it to focus on the task at hand, which is to tell a story with music.

“I need to fully be immersed in a piece so that nothing else comes and takes over while I play,” he said during an interview on New Year’s Eve. “I think about that as I prepare and even when I play — just totally letting go, being off in a different world and trying my best to touch the audience as best I can.”

Tristan, 17, recently won the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, a national scholarship given by National Public Radio’s “From the Top” program, which helps young musicians with the costs of studying classical music.


He and several other talented young musicians performed during a live taping of “From the Top” on Nov. 17 at the Jorgensen Center of the Performing Arts at the University of Connecticut.

“From the Top” will broadcast the performance on KUSC at 6 p.m. on Sunday and by podcast at

Tristan, a home-schooled student who started playing piano when he was 7 years old, gave a quick listen of his performance from November, which featured Sergei Prokofiev’s “Allegro in D minor from Four Etudes, Op. 2 No. 1” — a complex, powerful composition that is a blend of busy and gentle progressions.

Because the performance was for a radio show and not a competition, Paradee said his nerves were more under control than usual, adding that he thinks he played well that night.


“I knew that if I played from my heart, I could overcome the stress,” he said. “Prokofiev was powerful behind the piano, and I wanted to capture that.”

Janelle Paradee, Tristan’s mother, said watching her son play is like seeing another person behind the piano.

“When he goes up on stage, I almost don’t know who he is,” she said. “He is not Tristan anymore [when he performs]. He is another entity. It’s like he lets himself go, and the music turns him into a different guy.”

With the new year ahead for him, Tristan said some of his goals for 2019 include working on his own pieces and refining his piano skills even further.

“I want to keep improving on my musical capabilities to send the audience that feeling that I want to convey,” he said.

Twitter: @acocarpio