Play it Again Jean, 12-year-old is Star Pianist in SNCF Station Pianos Talent Hunt

Jean Cotro, a 12-year-old from Tours with a jazz technique mature beyond his years, has beaten 900 other contestants to win a national “Piano in Gare” competition run by French state railways, SNCF.

Jean Cotro from Tours winner of a national piano contest on SNCF train stations (Credit: Screen capture)

Jean Cotro from Tours winner of a national piano contest on SNCF train stations (Credit: Screen capture)

His interpretation of a Herbie Hancock jazz hit, Cantaloupe Island, was recorded at Tours station on December 14 and posted to the Internet as part of a country-wide Pianos in Stations contest.


The youngster’s performance greatly impressed the jury according to L’Express magazine . “His performance  was unbelievable for a child of this age and showed unusually high emotional quality. We were literally blown away by the maturity of his performance,” the SNCF jury said in a statement.

Here is the winning video showing the youngster’s impressive jazz technique:

Un enfant de 12 ans gagne le concours national… by LEXPRESS

Jean, whose father is a jazz musician and mother an opera singer, has been studying piano since he was 6, the SNCF statement added. His prize is a Yamaha acoustic piano. Four runners-up also won consolation prizes.

Launched late September across France, the “Piano in Gare” contest invited pianists to post Internet entries of their performances — videoed on the free Play Me I’m Yours pianos installed in major French stations nationwide. Nearly 900 entries were recorded over six months with 43 making it to the finals and four winners selected.

Second prize went to Noà  Zanon, 10, who played Cyclops , a piece for harpsichord in D major by Jean-Philippe Rameau on the Paris Gare de Lyon piano on November 5. She is in junior school and lives near Beaune on the Côte-d’Or.

Clara Pertuy and Julie Leroux won the third prize for their duet – an interpretation of the Hungarian Dance No. 5 in F sharp minor by Brahms on the piano at Bordeaux Saint-Jean station on 16 December.

Finally, the Special Jury Prize went to Aymeric Danjou, a young, blind 19 year old who improvised a blues piece on November 20 at Paris Nord station.

Below are videos of the runners-up in the contest:

Noà  Zanon at Paris Gare de Lyon

Noà Gare de Lyon by jmcarmona

A Duet by Pertuy Clara and Julie Leroux at Bordeaux Saint-Jean :

Blind Aymeric Danjou plays boogie woogie at the Gare de Nord in Paris:

SNCF began rolling out a programme of free access Play Me I’m Yours pianos on its station concourses, some 12 months ago and the scheme has proved massively popular with passengers and local musicians.

Here is a L’Express magazine reportage filmed at Paris Saint-Lazare in 2014:

24 heures dans la vie d’un piano de gare by LEXPRESS

Story: Ken Pottinger




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