By Connor Beach
The goal of almost all great musicians is to create music that elicits an emotional response from their listeners, and for the last eight years The Piano Guys have been inspiring millions of viewers all over the world using both sight and sound.
The four-man team from Utah, pianist Jon Schmidt, cellist Steve Sharp Nelson, videographer Paul Anderson and music producer Al van der Beek, have created 76 videos that blend traditional classical music with modern pop songs. Their videos combine creative compositions, like their mash-up of Beethoven’s 5th symphony and “Secrets” by One Republic, with awe-inspiring videography.
The Piano Guys’ YouTube channel has amassed over 6 million subscribers, and their most viewed video, a classical cover of “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, has over 123 million views.
Van der Beek said the group’s success grew out of an advertising campaign that Anderson came up with to promote his music store called The Piano Guys. Anderson recruited Schmidt, a renowned local pianist, to perform on the store’s pianos with the Utah countryside as a backdrop, and Anderson would post the videos to his store’s website.
Nelson, who knew Schmidt through professional performances, moved in next door to van der Beek, and soon the four men began collaborating.
“Before you knew it we have seven albums with Sony and over a billion views on YouTube,” van der Beek said. “And the irony is we still haven’t sold a piano.”
Van der Beek said the ideas for the settings of their videos, which have been filmed everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Scottish Highlands, originate in the music.
“As you are working on the sounds in the studio certain imagery just comes to your mind,” van der Beek said.
He added that The Piano Guys’ videos are “all inclusive” because people from around the world can all relate to the mostly instrumental music and the universally breathtaking scenery.
As for the inspiration behind the unique musical mashups, van der Beek said Nelson and Schmidt “have classical melodies swimming in their heads,” but the modern pop song ideas come from The Piano Guy’s kids, 16 between the four of them.
“It’s really cool to see how these songs can come together… To be able to take those two worlds and blend them together is one of the coolest things ever, and we feel like we are fulfilling our purpose through this music and these videos,” van der Beek said.
Van der Beek said The Piano Guys, all of whom are Mormons, are looking to inspire joy in people through music.
He said, “The emotion and the passion that you feel from Steve and Jon, you just can’t help but pick up on it and come away with a positive feeling.”
The Piano Guys are set to play The Paramount in Huntington on Wednesday, May 2. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $69.50-$125 and can be purchased at the box office or at Paramountny.com.