QCSO Students Perform with The Piano Guys

Local student violinists to perform at Adler

By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

Tuesday night's concert of The Piano Guys at the Adler Theatre will be special for eight violinists from the Quad City Youth Symphony Orchestra.

The teens were chosen by audition to perform with the pros on stage during the piece "Beethoven’s 5 Secrets,” which combines OneRepublic’s “Secrets” with melodies from all four movements of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

"I'm extremely excited to perform with the Piano Guys," Mackenzie Rice, 15, and a sophomore at Bettendorf High School, said. "I have watched their YouTube videos for a long time, and I have always wanted to see them perform live, so it's really exciting for me to not only see them live, but be a part of that live performance."

"I am extremely thrilled to have this opportunity," Annie Warner, 14, of Pleasant Valley High, said by email. "I have watched many of the Piano Guys’ videos and love their music, but never thought they’d actually come to the Quad-Cities.

"I can’t believe I actually get to play with them," she said. "When we heard they were coming to the Adler, we got tickets right away. When I heard that we could play with them, I was so excited to have the chance to play with the Piano Guys."

In addition to performing, each student will get two complimentary tickets to the show.

"I never dreamed I would get the opportunity to play on stage with them," said Mark Moen, an Orion High School freshman.

His mom, Stephanie, teaches music and said their whole family loves The Piano Guys, he said.

The Piano Guys are four dads who became "an Internet sensation by way of their immensely successful series of strikingly original self-made music videos," according to an Adler news release.

They’ve made more than 50 videos since 2011, including their most popular video, a multi-handed version of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” and reinvention of the hit song “Let It Go” from Disney’s "Frozen," the release said.

The American Heritage Lyceum Philharmonic (Youth Orchestra) approached them with the idea of performing with young musicians.

"We loved it. It combined two of the things we are working to accomplish — inviting people to classical music and inspiring young musicians" they say on their website, thepianoguys.com.

One member, Steven Sharp Nelson, previously soloed with the orchestra and plays cello on the "Beethoven's 5 Secrets," which was developed by the four guys.

What are Beethoven’s secrets? "He had many," the website says. "His most prominent secret that he desperately tried to keep from the public and that caused him to be considered extremely eccentric, irritable and hermit-like was his 'weakness.' He was deaf during most of his life. Imagine that … one of the greatest composers that ever lived could hardly hear."

Ben Klemme, music director for the Quad-City Symphony youth ensembles, said The Piano Guys tour typically asks for eight student violinists in each city to join them for the piece. In addition to having to audition "blind" (so judges can't see who they are), the teens must memorize the music, he added.

"It's a great opportunity -- an exciting opportunity because they're familiar with The Piano Guys; they're fans of the music, and to play with people they admire is fantastic," Mr. Klemme said. "It's an educational opportunity, to perform a blind audition is great. That is how we do it with the Quad City Symphony."

This won't be the first time students play on the Adler stage. Since 2014, the full youth orchestra has performed with the professional symphony, conducted by Mark Russell Smith, and each February in Symphony Day, the kids play for fourth and fifth graders, Mr. Klemme said.

One of his QCYSO violinists (there are 30 in the ensemble) gave Mr. Klemme a Piano Guys CD for Christmas last year.

"I know how much the kids love these artists, and they're so excited to be on stage with them," he said. "I'm thankful they reached to us and the youth in our community."

To see the video of the piece, visit youtube.com/watch?v=mJ_fkw5j-t0.