Child piano prodigy Daniel Clarke Bouchard grows up

Daniel Clarke Bouchard, the child piano prodigy who became a celebrity in Quebec after appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2014, is now a young man already studying at Juilliard and grappling with how to find love.

That cute kid in a bow tie is now a young man headed to Juilliard. The bow tie's still there.

Piano prodigy Daniel Clarke Bouchard is now 17 and preparing to study classical music at The Juilliard School. (Steve Rukavina)

This is the sixth in CBC's new podcast series, Montreapolis. You can hear a full feature interview with Daniel Clarke Bouchard on CBC's new podcast Montreapolis, which brings you conversations with people who make up modern Montreal. Subscribe here.

Daniel Clarke Bouchard, the child piano prodigy who became a celebrity in Quebec after appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2014, is now a young man preparing to study music full-time at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.

"Someone saw the video of me on Ellen recently, someone of my own age, and he told me, 'Oh you looked so cute.' I was like, 'Where are you going with this?'"

"I mean the words, they were in past tense," Bouchard said with a laugh, in an interview for CBC Montreal's new podcast, Montreapolis.

Daniel Clarke Bouchard was a hit on the Ellen DeGeneres show when he appeared at age 13. (Michael Rozman/Warner Bros)

Bouchard today is different from the boy who famously mugged for the camera on Ellen. He's kept the bow tie, but he's taller, his voice has dropped, and there's just a slight fuzz of moustache above his upper lip.  

Bouchard still has plenty of confidence, but it's a quieter, more dignified confidence. The cute kid is morphing into a man.

Piano is everything

Bouchard is still in high school in Montreal, but he's already attending Juilliard part-time. He heads to New York City every Saturday for lessons, master classes and performances.

"It's just like an extra day of school. But that's the only day where I'm not complaining about going to school," Bouchard said.

Bouchard can't wait to study music full-time. He said if it wasn't for getting cramps in his hands, he'd be at the piano 24 hours a day.

"I was in math class the other day, and I started to think of music, and I'm just playing with my hands on my lap and I'm like, 'Wouldn't it be great if I could just leave any time I want? During class and just leave and go play?'" Bouchard said.

Piano prodigy Daniel Clarke Bouchard says he "gels" with the piano. 0:38

OK, not quite everything

The piano is clearly the centre of Bouchard's life.  But now that he's a teenager, he also thinks about what many teenage boys think about: the opposite sex.
Daniel Clarke Bouchard admits to having a 'huge crush' on U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles. (Rebecca Blackwell/CP/AP)

Last summer, while he was in Rio as part of cultural activities around the Olympic games, Bouchard wasn't shy about tweeting his fondness for U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles.

"That was a huge crush. It was my big crush, and it still is actually," Bouchard said.

"She's great."

Unfortunately, Bouchard never got to meet Biles.

Montrealer Daniel Clarke Bouchard appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week. 1:01

In fact, despite a life that's full of travel and adventure, Bouchard has not yet found romance.

He said being a piano virtuoso doesn't necessarily translate into attracting girls.

"I think piano is one of those instruments that … it's not like if you were a guitarist or a drummer.  That's like, you know — bad boys. Even a nerdy guy playing the guitar will get girls," Bouchard said.

"I feel like girls my own age are kind of immature. in a way. I'm not trying to accuse the gender; they just don't understand what is going through my head and what music means to me," he said.

Piano scared him, at 4

Bouchard said his main goal at Juilliard will be to expand his repertoire.  

His proficiency at the piano allows him to dream big: he wants to settle in New York and perform around the world. He'd like to collaborate one day with Wynton Marsalis or Stevie Wonder.

More from Montreapolis:

But it wasn't love at first sight when his mother brought a piano into their house when Bouchard was four.

"I was so intimidated by the piano because it was so big, and I was so little," Bouchard recalled. "I was scared because it was so massive, and I felt like it would just swallow me."

"But one day, my mom put me on the piano and she said, 'Stop ignoring it. Just put all your feelings into it. See what happens,'" he continued.

"It was great. Just the first few notes, and then it built into something great. And ever since, I've grown into a pianist."

You can hear a full feature interview with Daniel Clarke Bouchard on CBC's new Montreapolis podcast, bringing you conversations with people who make up modern Montreal. Click here to subscribe.

About the Author

Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.