Sound check, concert, meet and greet, attempt to sleep on a tour bus and repeat. Steven Sharp Nelson and the rest of “The Piano Guys” travel through different time zones around the world, sometimes up to 10 days, non-stop to share their talents and inspire people through their music.
All of the long nights away from home, the many hours in the recording studio and the time spent writing music is not for the fame and fortune, according to Nelson. He said it’s about “giving people an opportunity to connect with God and feel the spirit.”
Nelson said he tries to answer the call to serve as a missionary of Christ in all things and in all places, from the bright lights on stage to even coordinating a meeting with the local missionaries.
“He’s a missionary to our ward, but he’s also a missionary to the world,” said Doug Todd, the assistant ward mission leader in Nelson’s ward.
Becoming “The Cello Guy”
Nelson, also known as “The Cello Guy,” is a world-renowned musician who is part of the YouTube sensation The Piano Guys. He admitted when he was a child, he wanted to be famous because of his love for entertaining people.
Nelson said the fame isn’t where he finds happiness. He said he finds his true joy in the gospel. Being LDS in a worldly atmosphere isn’t an easy thing according to Nelson. He credits his family and the gospel for keeping him grounded with the spirit.
“I’m so blessed Heavenly Father didn’t let this happen earlier on in my life because if I didn’t have my footing firmly planted in the ground, I would’ve been swept up,” Nelson said.
The Piano Guys went from one small attempt to market a piano store through videos in the small town of St. George, to a YouTube channel with 4.5 million subscribers from around the world. Nelson said the creation of The Piano Guys was completely in God’s hands and not just happenstance.
“The wonderful thing about believing in God, is that you stop believing in coincidences,” Nelson said. “The minute you stop believing in coincidences, you’re free. You’re free to believe that there is purpose to life and there is purpose to everything you do.”
Missionary to the world
The Piano Guys try to use their fame in a positive and authentic way to share the gospel with others according to Nelson. He said the world is their mission field and they don’t take that calling lightly. Nelson said the group prays to have the spirit with them before every concert, recording, video shoot or even when deciding on a song to write. Nelson said he also gives a Book of Mormon to someone on almost every one of his tours.
The cellist said it can be easy to be overwhelmed with the amount of emails they receive from fans, so he prays to know which emails to respond to. He said he felt a strong impression to respond to a woman from Germany named Sylvia Nassauer last July.
Nelson sent the missionaries to visit Nassauer after a few email exchanges so that more of her questions could be answered. The senior couple assigned gave her a Book of Mormon which changed everything. Nelson explained the power of The Book of Mormon in her conversion.
“The exciting part of this story is that it wasn’t me that converted her. It wasn’t my music, it wasn’t the missionaries,” Nelson said. “It was when she read The Book of Mormon. And to me, that is such a testament of the reality of the truthfulness of that book.”
Nassauer was baptized on Feb. 27, 2016 and she gives all the credit to God through Nelson’s help.
“I am a total stranger, miles away. He (Nelson) is a busy man with his own problems and family duties,” Nassauer said. “If it hadn’t been for him, I would have never met the missionaries and visited the church in Wiesbaden and I wouldn’t be where I am now: ready for my baptism and a life with my Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Another convert inspired by The Piano Guys is Matt Janovsky, a 22-year-old music student from Pennsylvania. Janovsky explained his conversion happened because of multiple encounters with the Spirit.
After “the guys” convinced Janovsky to move to Utah for school, they invited him to perform at a show. On one occasion, he even joined one of them for family home evening. They grew a strong friendship and Janovsky started asking questions.
“Whenever I talk to Steve or Al, I feel like I have known them my whole life,” Janovsky said. “Whenever I wasn’t sure about something, I’d call and they would help.”
Nelson, Marshall McDonald and Lindsey Stirling attended and performed at Janovsky’s baptism last year in Orem.
Missionary off the stage
The missionary work doesn’t end when Nelson gets home from work. He was called as the ward mission leader in his Salt Lake City ward last July.
“I love that the Lord qualifies who He calls,” Nelson said. “I told them I wasn’t in town very much but I’m willing to give this my all. But I knew the Lord would make it work somehow.”
He said he tries to share his missionary enthusiasm inside his own home. Nelson and his wife, Julie Nelson, are the parents of four children and they make teaching their children about missionary work a priority.
“The best way is to show them by example and just do it,” Julie said.
Nelson agreed with his wife concerning being an example to those around him.
“If they see my passion for The Book of Mormon, gospel doctrine or my soft-hearted sincerity over missionary work for a neighbor I’m really concerned about, they will pick up on it,” Nelson said.
Nelson gave his advice about missionary work specifically to students at BYU as well.
“A lot of your work is going to be convincing somebody that already knows of The Book of Mormon and of its value,” Nelson said. “Instead of trying to find someone who doesn’t know what it is, find somebody who doesn’t value it. Bear your testimony of the Book of Mormon in casual ways.”