Steven Sharp Nelson (born 1977) is a pioneer in “cello-percussion”—an alternative performance method that combines traditional, lyrical cello techniques with unconventional pizzicato and percussive technique. He was born and still resides in Salt Lake City, Utah. He began studying cello at age 8, percussion at age 12 and guitar at age 17. He has invented a new method of playing the cello that combines elements learned from each of these instruments.
He has studied the cello (still his primary instrument) under Ryan Selberg, Stephen Emerson, and John Eckstein. He obtained a degree in music from the University of Utah School of Music, graduating in 2002.
Nelson’s true cello career began when he was 15. He was recruited by Peter Breinholt to arrange string parts and perform with Breinholt’s band, Big Parade. Since then he has recorded on over 100 different albums ranging from folk & bluegrass to hip hop. He has also made his way as a solo artist. His first album Sacred Cello (2006) was atop the Billboard Charts. He has since two more solo albums that have also received significant acclaim (Tender Mercies, 2008 and Christmas Cello, 2010)
Nelson is well known for his collaborations with pianist Jon Schmidt as The Piano Guys – most particularly in their mash-up arrangement of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” and Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida,” a YouTube sensation. Schmidt and Nelson perform regularly together throughout the United States and the world.
Nelson also teams up often with pianist Paul Cardall and has written most of Cardall’s orchestrations.
Nelson’s shared performance and compositions with pianist Marshall McDonald are also of note. Among other works, Nelson and McDonald have composed two symphonies together (Spanish Trail Suite, 2006 and Africa, 2008), the second of which was featured in the number one classical podcast in the world and was downloaded over 30 million times.
Nelson’s influences include Victor Borge, Bobby McFerrin, Peter Schickele, Yo Yo Ma, U2, Sting, and James Taylor. His trademark style is to always include parody, comedy, and musical “shtick” in every performance.