ST. GEORGE, Jan. 16, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — Southern Utah-based piano and cello group The Piano Guys has found itself on the defensive after agreeing to perform at President-elect Donald Trump’s pre-inauguration event, “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration.”
The planned event, Thursday at the Lincoln Memorial, also will feature Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down and Jackie Evancho, who came in second on “America’s Got Talent.” Singer Jennifer Holliday agreed to appear, then canceled after backlash from her fans and friends.
Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will perform at a related event.
On Sunday, an unspecified member of The Piano Guys defended the decision to perform, and posted the following message on the group’s website:
“Our desire as The Piano Guys has always been to spread hope, love and joy through our music and videos,” the statement said in part. “We accepted the invitation to perform at the Inauguration with this objective in mind.
“We would have been honored at the opportunity no matter who was being sworn in. We, too, are distraught over how divisive this chapter in our nation’s politics has been, but we have hope for the future! As the pendulum of politics swings one way or another, let us all pray for understanding and for goodwill to win in the end”
Without mentioning Trump or how he is perceived, the post goes on to say The Piano Guys’ members do not believe in bullying, see women as equal to men, and respect immigrants and people of all races and religions.
“Those of you who know us, know we grew up as ‘nerdy’ musicians and we experienced bullying firsthand. We abhor and decry bullying. You know that we honor our relationships with our spouses more than anything else. You know we believe women are Divinely appointed to not only equality, but also respect and chivalrous deference. You know that in our history our ancestors were refugees, driven from their homes in fear for their lives. We empathetically embrace those now in the same situation. You know we believe in loving all people, regardless of gender, race, political affiliation, country of origin, or religious background.
“You know we believe that differences are meant to be celebrated, not calculated. If you know our music, you know that we painstakingly, prayerfully write and perform it with the intention to give it the greatest potential to lift others and break down barriers, not build them.”
The post goes on to address the inauguration directly:
“First, you need to know that when we were invited to perform, we made it a matter of serious prayer and deep soul searching,” the post says.
It goes on to share a story about singing in a country where the group was not sure it would be welcomed, and how music seemed to win over the crowd.
“When decisions are too difficult to make on our own one of the things we do is look to men and women who have acted above and beyond petty partisanship and even beyond themselves to bridge over barriers,” the post continued. “People that have made the world a better place because they stayed true to the mission they felt they were foreordained to fulfill.”
The post then quoted Mother Teresa, Civil Rights leader Marian Anderson, President Barack Obama and Jesus Christ calling for, respectively, being non-judgmental, not holding people down, making the transition to a new presidency peaceful, and not throwing the first stone.
“People like Mother Teresa who defied cultural castes to serve people considered ‘untouchable.’ She once said, ‘If you judge people, you have no time to love them. Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.’
“We look to Marian Anderson – one of history’s bravest proponents of civil rights – an African American woman who sang for two inaugurations in a divided, segregated nation, despite being treated by many in that nation with unthinkable prejudice and baseless hatred. She once said, ‘As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might.’ How she must have smiled from above when President Obama was elected – a landmark leap forward in the struggle she so peacefully fought so fiercely.
“This same President Obama counseled us all to ‘work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the President-elect — because we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country. The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world.’
“We look to Jesus Christ, who we believe to be the greatest example of unconditional love in history, whose antagonists attempted to trap him into treachery against his own teachings in order to uphold the law of the day and stone a woman they caught in adultery. To them He suggested, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.’ Jesus asked us to love our neighbor unconditionally and forgive those that sin differently than we do.
“We’re no Mother Teresas. Far from it,” the post continued. “And we’ll never be as perfect as Christ. But that won’t stop us from striving our best to be like them. We’re not performing for politics or in support of one man or one woman. We’re just doing all we can to follow our hearts in the unconditional pursuit of making this nation, and this world, a better place for all people — to use our music, which is a small thing, to span divides, spread love, and displace discord with harmony.”
The post then referenced the late daughter of member Jon Schmidt. Annie Schmidt disappeared Oct. 16, 2016, while hiking in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge. Hundreds of volunteers joined the search, and thousands around the world prayed or offered supportive words on a dedicated Facebook page. Her body was found on Nov. 11.
“When Jon’s daughter went missing people came to our aid in incredibly unselfish, loving, caring, and nonjudgmental ways,” the post continues. “We wish everyone could have seen the goodness in others we saw. It reaffirmed our hope that it’s gonna be okay. That, though the pendulum of politics swings one way or another, good will win in the end.
“To our friends who have felt disturbed by our involvement, we want you to know that this doesn’t lessen our gratitude for what you have done for us. Not one bit. We still feel indebted to you. We love you. You give our music wings! We sincerely hope and pray for your understanding.
“We don’t feel right limiting our positive message only to people that believe or act the same way we do. We haven’t changed our message. We haven’t changed who we are, what we stand for, or what our music means and why we write it. We’re still doing what we’ve always done – playing for anyone who will hear our musical message with the hope that it persuades its listeners to love others.”
“– The Piano Guys”