Wendy J. Levenfeld

Being raised with two older brothers I was spared having to wear hand-me-down clothes, play with previously discarded toys (yes I am old enough to have been raised when toys were sex specific) but not from being told "if you want to play a musical instrument, pick one of your brothers' from the basement!"

Ah, the basement, my family's repository for tossed items, the place where the implements of my brothers' failed forays into the world of music went to die. Trumpet, clarinet, drums were among the shiny, inert and ignored instruments of potentially glorious sounds. But, it was the piano that I wanted to play, not one of the rejects residing in the basement. My parents were adamant. Being the baby of the family had its advantages but in this case it proved a great disadvantage. It seemed my brothers' short-lived enthusiasms for various instruments condemned me to selecting one of their hand-me-downs to spare the expense of yet one more unused instrument joining the musical ensemble in the basement.

But wait...I had a major brainstorm for a six year old. I had come up with the only line of attack I could see working...appeal to a higher authority.

I called my grandmother!

I saw a great segment on CBS Sunday Morning about a musical duo, The Piano Guys. Have you heard of them? They are a YouTube sensation. Their more than half-billion views and 4.3 million subscribers have catapulted them into recording contracts and concert engagements where they perform to sell-out crowds.

Jon Schmidt plays piano, Steven Sharp Nelson cello and the music they make is nothing short of extraordinary. They pluck the piano strings, pound on the face of the cello or piano seat, anything that crates unfamiliar sounds gets transformed into exquisite music. They succeed in creating a fresh new magnificent sound of their own.

And their videos are simply glorious. Part travelogues, part visual extravaganzas, all magnificent music; they incorporate modern genres with classical pieces blending effortlessly and almost spiritually the past to the present. They have traveled and filmed and created spectacular sets all over the world painstakingly transforming often times exotic locales into fantasy spaces punctuating the true fantasy quality of their music.

They have performed in an ice and snow cavernous sculpture, under waterfalls in Brazil, atop the Great Wall of China, in deserts and on mountaintops. There is so much visual creativity and musical talent it's almost sensual overload, spectacular sound amid both nature's and manmade wonders.

I guess you get that I am awed by these guys...and if you don't know their work, I think you will be too if you take a look at their videos.

My grandmother came through and had a piano delivered to me which my mother put in our living room stating that at least it would be a lovely decorative piece once I had stopped playing. But I didn't stop playing. To this day I still sit at the piano in solitude escaping the tensions of life. And while I certainly do not play anywhere near as well as the Piano Guys, when I watch their faces and expressions as they play I think that I too must have that same look when I play. For I discovered the pure joy of music long ago. And watching them one can only think that they couldn't have pursued a more joyous pursuit. They have given the world the gift of that joy and at the end of this holiday season what could be better than a gift of joy?

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