The Piano Guys strive for a positive influence

Published: Sunday, Feb. 26 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

“With this many different dynamic personalities, we’ve just got to put egos down and just realize the bigger picture, which … is to lift people, to inspire people, have them feel something, have them feel what we know to be from God,” Van Der Beek said.

“We remind each other that we’re not creating this music,” Nelson said. “We feel inspired when we’re writing the music because it’s beyond what we could do.”

He added that they're truly dependent on God.

The men pray before every shoot.

“We prayed really hard before the helicopter picked up the piano,” Anderson said.

“That was a very sincere prayer,” Stewart interjected.

The men started laughing, referring to the filming of an African style cover of Coldplay’s “Paradise,” called “Peponi,” which they shot with singer Alex Boy on a cliff in Southern Utah.

The helicopter and piano endeavor has become wildly popular, having surpassed three million YouTube hits – and the piano did survive.

“There’s too many experiences where we’re just like, ‘Are you kidding me? That really happened that way?’” Schmidt said.

With perfect weather, perfect shots, the men recognize what they believe are many miracles in their creative process. They firmly believe God has a plan for what they’re doing but are mindful that not everyone believes as they do.

The videos have received many positive comments from self-proclaimed atheists.

"Our music is spiritual, not religious," Nelson said to put it simply.

Many people have lost hope in humanity thanks to what the media feed them, Schmidt said, "and it's just nice to be a counterweight to that. You can call it spiritual if you want, because I think it is.”

Spiritual, uplifting, happy or whatever their music becomes for people, it seems to be about hope. Hope in humanity, hope for the music industry and hope for aspiring musicians.

Van Der Beek and Nelson likened many current musical hits to Twinkies, providing a sugar rush kind of reaction, but no sustainable good feelings.

“We’re trying to put nutrition back into music a little bit,” Nelson said.

Anderson spoke excitedly about where they could be years from now – perhaps they’ll even start some knew kind of trend of impassioned instrumental music, he said.

Schmidt jumped in, turning to Nelson, and briefly changed the subject.

“The other funny thing about it is that you and I are just a couple of ugly dudes that are not trying to be cool," he said.

“That obviously can’t be,” Nelson interrupted.

The men erupted into laughter.

“There are way too many role models for hot guys out there,” he continued, between laughs. “We will be role models for the geeks out there and people that love classical music, and that’s OK.”

On a more serious role model note, Nelson said, his email inbox has been swarmed with messages from grateful parents, thanking him and Schmidt for motivating their children.

Rewards like that, Schmidt said, outshine any financial benefit they're sure is to come.

Financing is, however, necessary to keep the inspirational projects going. Most of the men have been able to quit their day jobs and focus on just The Piano Guys.

They started a “founder” program a couple of months ago, similar to the model of Kickstarter, to raise money for their endeavors. Thanks to contests, downloads and album and merchandise sales, things are going well so far, they said.

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