- A SoundLife Interview Series -
A Fun and Inspiring Series About the Places Music Can Take You
Meet Jeff & Rhiannon, full time couple, full time parents, and full time musicians with a premier Dueling Pianos show. The Jeff & Rhiannon Dueling Pianos Show is one of the most sought-after musical acts in the country today. Their all-request, audience interactive, comedic dueling pianos show is booked by companies like Microsoft, Disney, Amazon, Facebook, NFL, Walmart, and Alaska Airlines for private events year after year. With performances from New York to Los Angeles, and Switzerland to Cancun, their incredibly energetic show is truly an entertainment experience like no other.
I first met Jeff & Rhiannon in 2007 while working for Holland America Cruise Lines as a musician in their Showband. We became fast friends, and years later when they had established themselves as top notch entertainers apart from cruise ships, they asked me to join their live full-band show. Over a decade later, we’re still traveling multiple times a year to some of the most exotic places, making music together and bringing people a night of unforgettable fun.
These are two really great people who’ve carved out a special niche for themselves doing what they love most. They’ve got so much inspiration to share, you’ll definitely want to watch this interview!
Chris: How did you first get started?
Rhiannon: We met performing for Disney cruise lines back in the early 2000s. We were both performing on the same ship. That’s when we met, fell in love, and decided to start working together.
Jeff: Yea, we formed our business in 2004. Up to that point we had done lots of different kinds of entertainment. We had headlined on a couple of cruise ships, and played in clubs. Rhiannon had done some dancing. But we ultimately decided to start a business with us doing a dueling pianos show for corporate events and private parties around 2004.
R: The first run we did as a team was for Royal Carribean. Then we made that into a headline act for Holland America Cruise Lines. After a few years we gave the corporate idea a chance and it just exploded. By 2008 we were doing full time corporate events.
Was there an artist, person, or moment that inspired you to become a musician?
R: For me, it was my Mom. She is a piano teacher. I had no choice. Haha. But it was through my church that I was probably most exposed to music. Then community theater is when it really connected with me and I knew performing was what I wanted to do with my life.
J: For me, Billy Joel was my god when I was kid. I loved his music. I heard him playing piano and singing and I just knew, I have to do this. And then for me, the other big moment was when I was working for Disney and I walked into a piano bar one night and saw somebody performing live, taking requests, and interacting with people. I remember that moment when I said to myself “I am made for this. This is what I need to be doing.”
So before you knew what you were going to do in music, you knew you were going to be a musician?
J: I did. Absolutely. It was that moment in my 20s, at the piano bar that I knew there was an avenue for me to do it professionally and make a living.
That’s an important moment.
J: Everybody has their dreams of going to Broadway and singing and doing all of these fantastical careers, which are great, but then a lot of people tend to think there are only a few of those avenues to pursue. For me, as a kid, Broadway was number 1. Fronting a big rock band, writing our own music, was my close 2nd. But seeing that (piano bar) made me realize how many more ways there were to make a career out of music.
What is your favorite aspect of music?
J: It’s really simple for me. The joy music brings to people and how much it can move someone emotionally. And how much it can create positivity, love, and good vibes. That’s what I love most about music.
R: My favorite aspect, bar none, is the performance. Whether you're sharing your own music or interpreting someone else’s you are bearing your soul. It is an amazing thing to bear your soul and have people be moved by that, and then give you such positivity back.
In an all request show, are there ever any songs you’re just tired of playing?
R: You know Chris, I’ll be honest with you. We are never sick of performing a song, and here’s why. When I look at it from the audience’s perspective, even though this may be the one thousandth time I’ve played “Don’t Stop Believin,’” I see them screaming and so excited. How could I not get excited to play that song for them? How could I be sick of that song?
How do you measure a successful performance?
J: A lot of it has to do with how engaged our audience is. To us a successful show is just that. We don’t get on stage and have the idea that “hey, we’re going to get on stage and it’s time for all of you to watch us.” It’s more like we come on stage and say “what can we do for you? Please be a part of this with us. Request songs. Sing along. Clap. Sometimes dance.” When we can have that return, that is a successful night for us.
Did you have a plan of what you wanted your career to look like, or did it happen piece by piece?
R: A little bit of both. We had one ultimate goal which was to make a living as entertainers, and then all of the things just kind of fell into place from there. I went from a singer/dance in a cast, to the singer of a rock band, and then to dueling pianos. We both really just grabbed every opportunity that we could and didn’t say no to things that we hadn’t tried. If it failed we just learned from it.
How did you get comfortable expressing yourself on stage?
J: Time. It’s the amount of time you put it.
R: You always have to be comfortable with not being perfect. In our world, the audience knows we’re all in this together. To Jeff’s point, to be able to get to the point where you can fly by the seat of your pants takes so much practice. The first time I got on stage my hands were shaking. I don't know how I got through it. The more I did it. The more comfortable I became. The more relaxed I become. The more risks I was willing to take. The more you can get up in front of people the easier it becomes. Just getting up, whether it’s in front of your cat and dog, or 2,500 people, the more you do it, the less nervous you will be.
J: It’s also about mentors. I went to someone who was doing what I wanted to be doing and asked him how to do it? He told me to start with 60 songs, the top 60 requests, learn those and come back.
R: The key is to not be afraid to ask for advice. Talk to people. Find mentors. Strive to improve yourself.
J: Humility. Kindness and positivity go so far. If you show up with a good attitude and willingness to work, people will want to help.
Tell us about your live streaming dueling pianos show and how that works.
J: It started back in March of 2020 when we were sidelined due to the pandemic. It’s something that has gotten more and more fun, and more and more viewership as the weeks have gone by. It’s still an all request, interactive show, except these are open to public. Anyone can join in on the fun. We have a dedicated text line so people can text their requests, tell us their name and where they are from. That’s how we engage with the audience.
R: We’re very active on the chats and love talking with people live throughout the show, so it still has the “anything can happen” energy. It’s been so much fun. As the weeks have gone by we started adding in theme nights as well. We’ve done Beatles night, 80’s night, one-hit wonders, and Broadway. Many of the people who join us have never seen our live show, so it’s been a great way to connect with new people.
The Jeff & Rhiannon Dueling Pianos Show is available for corporate events, private parties, and all sorts of live and virtual engagements. Check out their live streaming, all-request dueling pianos show here
Connect with Jeff & Rhiannon in all your favorite places!
Interview by Chris Vazquez, Founding Partner of SoundLife Music Academy and a professional session musician in Los Angeles, CA.
At SoundLife Music Academy, we make it our mission to continuously bring valuable, exciting, and helpful information to our students. One of the most valuable things a developing performer can learn is that working in music is so much more than just one single path. This interview is part of our ongoing interview series with professional musicians from all avenues of the music industry, where they share stories of their own personal paths to successful and rewarding careers in music.