The Five Browns - The power of music
Published 11:35 am, Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The 5 Browns are a unique musical entity, five dynamic siblings, all virtuostic solo pianists who perform together on five Steinway pianos arranged in a tight group, to nested in front and three behind them, arranged for eye and ear contact.
There are three sisters, (all beauties, by the way,) Desirae, Deondra and Melody, and two brothers, Gregory and Ryan. They range in age from 25 to 32 years old, and all started to play the piano at around age 3. They made the decision to aim for professional concert careers in their late teens, and all went to the Juilliard School, almost simultaneously in the late 1990's, and studied there with Yoheved Kapinsky. The two brothers were available for a fascinating telephone interview, and Gregory mentioned that there was a piano in every room in their house, even the garage. In addition to the Browns' concert schedule. He mentioned that he is working on his doctoral degree.
Although professionally centered on music, they all have full personal lives, are all married, and Deondra now has a baby girl. They are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and in 1991, the family moved to Utah.
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I always ask artists what their dreams are. Gregory and Ryan both said that they are living their dream, which is to bring the gift and the excitement of classical music to as large an audience as they can. This includes going into schools to play for young people. This is very important to them, because they are aware that there are negative attitudes and lack of exposure to classical music in our contemporary culture. The performances give the Browns the opportunity not only to play for, but to talk with, students. This opens up a bright horizon and bring something exciting and in some cases, brand new to these special audiences. Imagine hearing a concert by five pianists who are only slightly older than they are, playing on five grand pianos and offering them something fabulous. The response to these concerts has been, to put it mildly, overwhelmingly positive. [I asked the brothers if they would be taking the time to do the two-year missionary service that young Mormon men are asked to do. They told me that this service is a personal decision, and that their music is their mission, which made perfect sense.]
The Browns play complex works by romantic composers, arranged for the five instruments, including Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, Grieg, and George Gershwin.
I was able to listen to several excerpts from their concerts through the "miracle of cyberspace," and they are truly amazing. Their three CDs have all reached the top of the Billboard Classical Album chart, not at all surprising on hearing them. Individually, they play a lot of Chopin, Schumann and Mozart, and often play in pairs or trios.
The 5 Browns have been all over the world in a relatively short number of years, and have been featured on several national television programs, including "Performance Today on PBS. In August, at the Ravinia Festival in Illinois, they will play with the Chicago Symphony, in the premiere performance of Piece for Five Pianos and Orchestra, by contemporary composer Nico Muhly, under the baton of James Conlon.
They have been described as playing "scorching piano," and "the biggest classical music sensation in years." They have also been described as "somewhat otherworldly."
This last seemed particularly poignant. The Brown family has been through a highly traumatic experience, and in talking with Gregory and Ryan, there was the sense that these five artists are perfect proof of the deeply transcendent spiritual and healing power of music.