HOPE ON. JOURNEY ON.
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In January of 2015, some of the most talented living LDS musicians filed into a nondescript Institute building in Orem, Utah. Lindsey Stirling, Jon Schmidt, Marshall McDonald, all came to witness the culmination of a long string of miracles.
Matt Janovsky, a Pittsburgh native and extraordinary violinist, was being baptized, and Steven Sharp Nelson, the cellist of the Piano Guys, would be performing the honors.
Matt’s conversion story begins with what he describes as a miracle.
God Knows Us, Even in Dorm Rooms
In early December 2012, Matt studied pre-med in at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.
The weather was too warm for snow and ice, but too cold to do anything outside but walk between classes. And the persistent drizzling refused to break into a full-hearted storm. It was lonely weather, perfect for studying, I suppose, if only Matt could focus on his chemistry book.
But Matt could only trudge through the study material for the classes he was on the brink of failing. Years ago he had stopped attending St. Mary our Lady of Guadalupe Church and gave up his position as an altar server.
His YouTube playlist ticking along in the background, Matt rued the irony that while the loss of the church had felt so subtle at the time, now he longed desperately for its peace, its community.
Matt felt alone, lost, anxious, forgotten. He threw his book onto the ground. “I can’t do this anymore,” he said to no one. But screaming to himself reminded Matt of Who he used to speak to when he was alone. He turned his computer off and did something he had not done in years—pray.
Matt surrendered himself to the Lord, and in that little dorm room in that little town in Pennsylvania holiness communed with the ordinary.
Today Matt struggles to remember the precise words of the prayer, since what he communicated was more guttural, more conceptual than linguistic.
But Matt tries to reconstruct what he meant in that prayer on that sacred evening. “I know I haven’t been there for you, and I know I haven’t been the best I can be, but I’m lost right now. I don’t know what to do, or how to get out of this situation. Please help me, show me the way and I will follow you.”
His sleeping computer sprang to life, and this song began to play.
As Matt listened to the remarkable song by a group he had never heard of, he felt as though his prayer had been heard. And a conviction solidified that he needed to pursue music and that if he were faithful everything would work out.
Did an angelic hand reach down from heaven and start the music, or did Matt simply bump his computer that autoplayed a related video?
I’m not sure it matters if this was a sudden broad miracle or a subtle placement of all the right pieces for a young man’s heart to be softened. But for the first time since he left his Catholic faith, Matt Janovsky was on the path to God.
A Fan Becomes a Friend
Matt left his dorm that day with two convictions. First he needed to return to church, to rebuild the relationship with God that he had abandoned. But while Matt felt the need to refocus on his faith, he felt the opposite toward his education.
Matt decided that it was time for a career shift. He abandoned pre-med to pursue violin performance.
Over the next months, Matt began attending mass, both at a church near his university and at the church he had grown up in when he visited his home. But Matt says, “I never felt like I was truly building the relationship I wanted with God.”
Just as Matt was beginning to refocus his career on his work as a violinist, Lindsey Stirling’s career as the weirdest, most popular violin player around was just starting to gain traction. Matt noticed.
When Matt talks about Lindsey, he starts to ramble like the fanboy he very much is, “I saw her on YouTube and immediately loved the whole idea of what she does. I never thought in a million years I would ever meet her.”
He reached out to her on her web page, at a time when she could still respond to fans’ emails. He began playing covers of Lindsey’s music. And she told Matt that she enjoyed them.
So when Lindsey went on her first ever tour and made a stop in Pittsburgh, Matt was there with a VIP ticket. He later became an admin for Lindsey’s Facebook fan page and as a result, became acquainted with her sister, Jennifer, who worked as Lindsey’s assistant.
Later that year, Matt went out to Utah to see one of Lindsey’s shows at Saltair and meet with many of the friends he had made from around the world on the Facebook page.
The next day Jennifer invited Matt to come to fast and testimony meeting with her before his flight back to Pennsylvania.
When he walked in a few people welcomed him, but Matt felt a little surprised that anyone would even know that he was visiting. In fact, when you talk to Matt about his conversion story one word comes up over and over again: community. Even in one hour he recognized that this was the opposite of the loneliness he felt in that dorm room.
Read the rest at LDS.net