The Piano Guys: 4 dads on a mission

Published: Monday, Dec. 16 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

The Piano Guys include, from left, music producer/songwriter Al Van Der Beek, pianist/songwriter Jon Schmidt, cellist/songwriter Steven Sharp Nelson, producer/videographer Paul Anderson. This photo is featured on their recent album, "A Family Christmas."

Nicolas Hudak, Sony Music Entertainment

Fun, inspiring, miraculous, "piano-licious," "cello-licious" — these are just a few of the words The Piano Guys use to describe their journey over the past couple of years.

The Utah-based group of Mormon artists, including pianist Jon Schmidt, cellist Steven Sharp Nelson, producer-videographer Paul Anderson and music producer-songwriter Al Van Der Beek, has seen rapid success. About two years ago, they were busy garnering attention on YouTube and were about to sign with Sony Music Entertainment.

They’ve since seen television appearances, multiple album releases and an international tour. They’re particularly excited about their “Home for Christmas” concert on Dec. 21 at EnergySolutions Arena, loving the opportunity to return to their roots in the middle of an incredible ride.

And they credit the entire experience to God.

“It feels like it’s just happened for a reason higher than ourselves,” Nelson said. “We don’t feel like it’s about the four of us, or even about our families. We feel like there’s something bigger or it wouldn’t be happening like this.”

Because of that, they said, they’re careful.

“With the success and everything comes a deep responsibility for using those talents that God has blessed us with in the right way,” Van Der Beek said.

The Piano Guys have always been open about their religious beliefs and the spiritual significance of what they do. But as they’ve increased in popularity, their opportunities to share the gospel have increased as well. They partnered with MormonChannel.org for a Christmas video last year titled "O Come, Emmanuel," and have a link to Mormon.org on their website.

“I don’t know if it was so much our comfort level as it was maybe our fans’ comfort level,” Nelson said, explaining how they waited to see how open they could be about being members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They wanted their fans to understand that they weren’t at all intending to pressure anyone. Their number one goal, basically, is to create music that helps people feel happy.

”People will come to the shows and talk to us (after concerts) and share just incredible experiences,” Schmidt said. One of their fans connected with her birth mother over The Piano Guys’ music online, and they took a leap of faith to meet at the concert.

As the men talked about their fans, there was a definite sense of love and admiration.

“I’ve had several people after shows come up and say, ‘Can we just have a prayer with you?’ ” Schmidt said. “And I love that. That is so cool.”

“It’s a great reminder that we as Mormons do not have the corner on the market in spirituality,” Nelson said. “There are so many wonderful, amazing, spiritual people that are fulfillment of the scripture that they’re true seekers of God. It’s been wonderful to meet them.”

They feel so honored to see their music bridging gaps between faiths and improving peoples’ lives.

“We all agree that we’re on a mission,” Van Der Beek said. “We feel like we’re companions.”

As companions, they constantly keep each other in check, making sure that they are always right with God.

“I think our missions prepared us big time for this,” Anderson said.

Anderson served a full-time mission in Washington state, Schmidt in Norway and Van Der Beek and Nelson in separate Korean missions.

Anderson discussed the pressure of the music and performance industry.

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