Homeschooling Teen

- A monthly online magazine BY Homeschool Teens... FOR Homeschool Teens!

The 5 Browns

What happens when you take five uniquely talented siblings in their 20’s and put them on stage with five Steinway pianos? You get a packed concert hall with thousands of excited young fans screaming and dancing in the aisles! The most amazing part is, these performing artists are not the latest rock or pop band, they are classical pianists – and all homeschool graduates! The 5 Browns are a musical sensation the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in many years, breathing new life into the classical music genre. With their youthful exuberance and dynamic stage presence, these fresh-faced musicians awaken the joy of classical music among audiences of all ages.

The 5 Browns are piano virtuosos, adept at performing individually or together in various combinations from duo to five-piano arrangements. It’s their ability to play in perfect synchronization on five grand pianos at once that makes them really stand out. These brothers and sisters can skillfully perform anything from emotionally complex works by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Frederic Chopin, to the jazzy stylings of George Gershwin and contemporary American musicals by Leonard Bernstein. Their traditional repertoire consists of popular classics such as Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue,” Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” These would be a great introduction to classical music, especially for the younger set.

In descending order of age, the 5 Browns include: Desirae (born 1979), Deondra (born 1980), Gregory (born 1982), Melody (born 1984), and Ryan (born 1986). The children of Keith and Lisa Brown, a trained operatic singer, they each began their piano studies at the age of 3. Though the parents never intended on creating a quintet of classically trained musicians – their goal was to simply to raise “five good people” – they did see promise in their children’s talent. Besides showing immense skill, the children’s passion for playing the piano never faltered and it became a big part of their daily routine. The family purchased five pianos so each child would have his/her own on which to play. They usually practiced from 3-6 hours per day. Mom left her job and devoted herself to taking the children to music lessons and recitals. Piano playing seemed to come as naturally to them as eating or sleeping, and as early as age 9 they had each performed with a symphony orchestra.

When Desirae started planning for college, Deondra decided to accelerate her education so she could attend with her sister. As the family began looking into music schools, many of the country’s finest colleges and conservatories offered full scholarships. They decided to attend the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. A year later, Juilliard accepted Melody, Ryan and Gregory. They made history as the first group of siblings to study simultaneously at the Juilliard School for five consecutive years. The entire Brown family, along with their five pianos, moved from Utah to New York.

The 5 Browns’ teachers at Juilliard have praised not only their extraordinary teamwork but also their distinctive personalities as individual artists: “Desirae and Deondra are a fabulous team; they play like they read each other’s minds. Gregory is a real bravura-type performer. Melody is sweet and easygoing, and it comes through in her playing. And Ryan is a storyteller and has a great imagination.” In a Time for Kids article, a journalist wrote: “Although the Browns create beautiful music together, each performer has developed a unique style,” adding, “Gregory’s style is aggressive. Melody’s is graceful. Ryan’s bursts with energy and personality. Desirae and Deondra play many of the duets … Deondra’s style is intense and rhythmic, while Desirae’s is more delicate.”

In 2005, their debut CD self-titled “The 5 Browns” stayed at Number 1 on the Billboard Classical chart for eight weeks. Their second album, “No Boundaries,” was Number 1 for 21 weeks. Their more recent CDs include: “Browns in Blue,” and “5 Stars: Favorites from the 5 Browns.” When asked what it’s like to be so famous and popular, Gregory says “I hope nothing that we ever do, like the concerts or the CDs, ever changes who we are because we’re a happy family.”

The 5 Browns have a website at
www.the5browns.com with photos, music videos, tour dates, ringtones, bios, and more. You can also search for 5 Browns videos on YouTube, which show their performances of “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Flight of the Bumble Bee,” “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” “18th Variation from Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” and more. Other video clips include a discussion of homeschooling and how they got their start.

One of the Browns’ favorite movies is “Amadeus.” Melody says, “It was a movie that really got us involved in music. You’re seeing Mozart as if he were real.” While most teens would consider classical music to be “old and boring,” the 5 Browns consider it to be current and relevant. Desirae says, “When you start playing without thinking or feeling, then I can see how it could get really boring. But when you’re throwing yourself into it, somehow you find new things in the music and new things that come up in your mind or how you’re feeling that make you come alive…. It’s all about love and hate and anger and joy, all these things that teenagers experience… so… translate it to your emotions, to your experiences.” Melody adds, “You’ve got to live life outside of music. You’ve got to bring other experiences you have with friends and relationships into your music or else you’ll have nothing to speak of. If you’re always just locking yourself in a music room, what are you expressing exactly?”

Speaking of other interests, if the 5 Browns hadn’t gone into music, their careers could have been very different. Desirae seriously considered going to law school, Deondra was thinking of starting a business, Gregory thought about becoming a pediatrician, Melody was interested in becoming a research scientist, and Ryan once wanted to be a weatherman. Deondra says, “Each of us had different areas that we felt were our strong points, that if we didn’t have music we would do. That’s important as a teenager – to have different ideas of what you could do, but then to really focus on one you feel comfortable spending the rest of your life doing.”

The 5 Browns are on a national tour right now. Their concerts are not to be missed and they always sell out! Visit their website at
www.the5browns.com for dates and locations. See if you can catch them at a concert hall near you! In addition to touring, the 5 Browns have just finished writing a book for Phoenix Books which will be released in early 2009.

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