The Piano Guys

Jon Schmidt on the piano and Steven Nelson on the cello.

Jon Schmidt on the piano and Steven Nelson on the cello.

Lately, I’ve noticed a very divisive line in culture, from books to movies to music. It’s a line between the old (or classic) and the new (modern or contemporary). This line is an all or nothing division. You can’t like Charlotte Bronte and Stephenie Meyer, Casablanca and The Lego Movie, Beethoven and Katy Perry. This one or the other mentality creates two groups of people: the classicists (or snobs) and the pop culturists (or uneducated). But most people, like me, enjoy both the classic and the contemporary. I’ve read Jane Eyre and Twilight. I’ve seen Casablanca and The Lego Movie. I listen to Beethoven and Katy Perry. Most people prefer to enjoy a healthy balance of classic and contemporary culture. But something even more rare, and desirable, than a balance of these two things is the seamless integration of them.

A week ago my mom and I went to see The Piano Guys for a mother/daughter date. For those not familiar with them, they are a group of five guys from Utah. Some of the five are videographers and sound engineers, spending most of their time behind the scenes while the two frontrunners, pianist Jon Schmidt and cellist Steven Sharp Nelson. Schmidt and Neslon, with the help of the three other Piano Guys, became a You Tube sensation after creating videos where they performed classical music and pop songs integrated into their own arrangement.

Schmidt and Neslon are both classically trained musicians of incredible talent, as evidenced by their impressive knowledge and performance of classical music—from Beethoven to Vivaldi. But rather than film another performance of Faure’s Pavane or Pachelbel’s Canon, The Piano Guys update their arrangements either through combining the classical piece with a popular song or arranging the song in a more contemporary way. The result is beautiful, catchy, and moving.

The unique style of The Piano Guys serves two important purposes, on top of the given purpose of being entertaining and good music. On one hand, their music introduces fans of One Direction, Taylor Swift, and Coldplay to the great composers. It is a great way to introduce young people to classical music in an engaging way. On the other hand, this music is also a great advocate for contemporary music. The Piano Guys’ arrangements reveal the musical beauty of pop music, from One Direction’s “The Story of My Life” to the theme from Star Wars. The music of The Piano Guys is a bridge between the classic and contemporary, and I think we need more of those bridges in the world.

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