NEW Piano Guys: Dueling pianos Wisco style

Aimee Suzanne Kruse-Ross

aimee suzanne kruse-ross | new piano guys | march 2019

With winter weather dishing out some amazing storms of late, it certainly seems that Wisconsinites looking to add fun into their lives could adapt this common creed with ease, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

The same thing may be said for the N.E.W. Piano Guys comprised of Peter Hernet and Dan Rafferty. In 2018, after being in business just a few short months, any fears the duo may have had about their success were quickly eliminated when Winter Storm Evelyn could not halt a planned event.

“We were a bit worried," admits Rafferty. “But to our surprise, even with 28 inches of snow on the ground, the audience came!"

After working for separate piano companies and dealing with the expenses of traveling out of state and working on the road away from family, both men sought a better way of doing things. Believing there to be enough demand to allow them to ply their trade within Wisconsin, Hernet and Rafferty combined their creative and business talents in mid-2017 to form N.E.W. Piano Guys.

Doing so has allowed the N.E.W. Piano Guys to do things the Wisconsinite way.

“We are from Wisconsin, playing for Wisconsin and with Wisconsin prices. We deliver the same great show without all the extra expense," says Hernet.

Part of the group's success is the yin and yang rapport between the self-taught Hernet and the formerly trained Rafferty. On most dueling piano circuits, explains the duo, players often find themselves partnered with a musician they've never played with previously. While these musicians are able to play together technically, they often lack the chemistry necessary to fully engage audiences.

In teaming up and remaining centralized in Wisconsin, the N.E.W. Piano Guys have a synergy rarely seen with dueling piano acts.

“You are able to deliver a very different type of show when you have two people that excel and know exactly what they're capable of doing," says Hernet. “To be able to bring a great show means that we know each other's material well. We have that and the audience picks up on it.

“That interaction with the crowd and between the two players on stage is one of the most important elements in a memorable show."

That interaction is key where a N.E.W. Piano Guys show is concerned, their all-request-style show covers a wide range of musical genres; everything from Bruno Mars to ZZ Top is in play during a performance.

“We went through 35,000 request slips in the first year alone," says Rafferty.

That figure is proof of the duo's rocketing popularity. In fact, the guys admit to being surprised as to how much demand their act is garnering.

According to Rafferty, in the first months since creating the group, he would have been happy to book one or two shows a month but instead “ended up doing 17 shows in the first two months."

Offering a dueling piano show unlike any other hasn't gone unnoticed.

“The feedback that we receive from audiences is, 'We've seen dueling piano shows before, but not with the same amount of chemistry,'" says Rafferty. “We spend a lot of time honing our presentation in a way that we know Wisconsin people can appreciate."

One can't help but think that some of the duo's success lies in witnessing two men doing what they love to do.

“This is all I've been doing for 20 years," says Hernet. “I couldn't imagine doing anything else."

Locally in the month of March, you'll find the N.E.W. Piano Guys performing at Narrow Bridge Brewhouse in Howard on March 2, the CP Telethon on March 3, Plank Road Pub & Grill on March 16, and the Grand Meridian in Appleton on March 22. Check our Marquee Events each month for more details.

For more information, a complete list of performances, or to book them for your event, visit or find them on Facebook @NEWPianoGuys.

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