After his breathtaking piano rendition of his original composition Waterfall, Jon Schmidt joked, “I’d like to thank myself for that musical number,” breaking the ice with the full house assembled for a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints fireside in Grantsville, Utah, Sunday night.
For a little over an hour, the nimble-fingered member of the world-famous musical group The Piano Guys and his wife Michelle shared inspirational stories and music.
Michelle opened with their childhood photos and her musing, as a freckled, toothsome pre-teen self: “How will life turn out?” She worried about having to wear a back brace in junior high.
For Jon, growing up the youngest of five kids with immigrant parents from Hamburg, Germany, life couldn’t have turned out more different than he imagined. During World War II, their house was bombed. The only thing they were able to carry out was a piano. As they watched the house burn, someone played Rejoice in life on their beloved instrument.
Jon and Michelle both majored in English though they didn’t cross paths then. After they married, they made the momentous decision for Jon to pursue a career in music.
“Jon was very scared starting out as a musician,” Michelle said.
Anyone in a creative field can relate to Jon’s humble beginnings that first decade—selling piano books including his original compositions and playing to small audiences in recital halls. It was a tough time financially.
Jon told his father, “I have to give up music. It’s not helping my family.” And then he asked for a blessing.
After he blessed Jon, his father had the distinct prompting that Jon should “stay with the music. Good music comes from heaven. Satan needs competition. You will travel around the world.”
In 2010, with Jon on the piano and Steven Nelson on the cello, The Piano Guys started posting their videos on YouTube. Today, they have over 6 million channel subscribers and have had over 1.6 billion views of their videos.
Jon chalked up his and his wife’s persistence to faith and an unrelenting optimism through prayer. “Anything distressing us, we can pray about.”
Their faith was tested once again three years ago when their 21-year-old daughter Annie disappeared after a hike in Oregon. After three weeks of intense searching, they found her body. She had fallen down a cliff to her death.
Prior to their finding Annie, Michelle had been about ready to give up. She woke one day thinking, “I don’t know how I can keep doing this.” And then she remembered a line from the scriptures: “Bruised, broken and torn for us on Calvary’s Hill.”
“Jesus Christ is my rock,” she reminded herself. “He’s experienced everything my daughter has.” As she sat in the car viewing brilliant fall foliage on one side and moss covered rock on the other, she received confirmation that Annie had passed on to the other side. Nonetheless, she was filled with peace and comfort.
After Michelle shared their tragic yet ultimately uplifting story of Annie’s death, Jon played a stirring piece, which he described, “a scene in a manger, where the Creator of the earth descends so low as to be born in a feeding trough for animals.”
“He descended to succor us,” Jon said, “to assist us in our distress.”
For the last portion of the fireside, Jon shared the faith-filled, behind-the-scenes story of how their video cover of Rachel Platten’s This is Your Fight Song came to be, despite all sorts of logistical problems.
They were slated to film at a beautiful castle in Scotland but still needed to find a pipe band, locations with trees, and good weather.
When they got there, “we had a window of two days,” Jon said. “The weather in Scotland changes a lot at that time. It’s common to have horizontal rain. We had no time to find a pipe band ahead of time and teach them the music. The film guys came to dinner and said they hadn’t found one thing with trees.”
The next day, Sunday, they debated whether or not they should attend all three hours of church.
“We’re going to all three hours of church,” Jon recalled the group deciding. “We needed major miracles.”
In the third hour of church, a lady said, “You need a pipe band? I happen to be the president of the pipe band. I can have the best within a 30-mile radius.”
Jon said, “The pipe band was a group straight out of Hollywood.”
Everything else fell into place. The piano movers told them about a grove of trees a half hour away. They covered the piano with tarps during the intermittent rain which stopped long enough for filming. They had conversations and shared their testimony with some Air Force officers, who told them about another beautiful location with trees nearby.
Jon concluded, “I pray The Piano Guys will never forget that Heavenly Father answered our prayers.”
And then he went on to play A Million Dreams from the movie The Greatest Showman.
Check out The Piano Guys’ YouTube channel here.