Like other 12-year-old boys, Jan Vojtek likes going to the movies with his friends, eating chocolate, reading his favorite books and competing in international piano competitions.
Well, not every 12-year-old boy.
In fact, Vojtek said he is the only one of his friends in the Czech Republic who plays the piano.
This week Vojtek competes against more than 30 other children in the Gina Bachauer Piano Competition in Salt Lake City.
"I am not worried," said Vojtek, who has played the piano since he was 4 years old.
Vojtek has competed and won several awards in the Czech Republic and other European countries for his artistry, but this is his first visit to the United States. He and his mother, Hana, are staying with Rosemary Olsen in Salt Lake City.
Sometimes, Olsen said, when the piano playing stops, Hana will come check on her son to find him reading his favorite plays or taking pictures of the planes outside flying in to land at the airport. His mother will remind him to finish practicing.
"Two hours of practice in the morning," Olsen said, "and two in the afternoon."
To host a competitor, the host family must have a grand piano and make certain it's tuned. Olsen enjoyed her previous host experience so she volunteered again. This time has been different.
"I speak no Czech," Olsen said before the mother and son came last Saturday. "I guess they can point to the refrigerator."
But American food, or food in general, doesn't seem to be a problem for Vojtek.
"He eats healthy and a lot," Olsen said.
Vojtek needs to be on his "A" game for the three competition rounds at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. On separate days, the competitors play one 20-minute and one 30-minute performance and then six competitors will be chosen for the final round today.
The first place winner will be awarded $7,000.
Performance time slots were randomly picked on Monday night. Vojtek was scheduled to play sixth on Tuesday and Thursday, immediately following 10-year-old Nayaka Clarence Wianto, the youngest competitor in the junior competition.
Both Wianto and Vojtek wanted to practice just a bit more before they performed, wishing they had a later performing time.
After 30 hours of traveling from their home in Indonesia, Nayaka Wianto, his mother, Suci, and his piano teacher, Whylma Imelda, arrived in Salt Lake City. They came a couple of days before many of the other competitors so Wianto could adjust to the time change.
But the night before Tuesday's competition, Wianto and his mother still had jet lag and only had about 3 1/2 hours of sleep.
"He fell asleep on the drive to the theater," said Eileen Luker, who hosts the family at her South Jordan home.
This is the first year Luker has hosted a family for the Gina Bachauer competition.
"It's been an incredible experience," Luker said.
She was worried about getting a family that didn't speak English, but her visitors speak it well enough.
"They are so gracious and polite," Luker said.
Wianto has been playing the piano since he was 4 years old. Now he is in three competitions a year, according to his mother.
Wianto practices for two hours every day. He said he has come to enjoy playing the piano, but in the beginning, Wianto said, he played because of his mother. He will continue playing the piano for a while, but when he is older, Wianto said, he wants to be an entrepreneur.
He still has some growing to do.
Wianto said his hands are still too small to play some music. But they are not too small for his hand-held electronic game.
"He plays it whenever he can," Luker said.
Whylma watches Wianto closely while he plays the piano. She has been his piano teacher for three years. She said he is her first student to go to competition.
Wianto's mother watches him proudly. She said Wianto is in national math competitions, too. She also wants her son to learn things other than the piano.
"Right now piano is priority but it's not the only one," he said.For now, piano is the boys' life.
E-mail: [email protected]