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THE 5 BROWNS
BY RONALD SKLAR
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
April 6, 2006.
Fifty fingers on five
keyboards. Three girls, two boys, all from the same womb, digging
classical music and – through sheer talent and charm -- making us dig it
What is this? Even the
most pony-tailed of marketing directors could not dream this up. It is
something that is so unlikely that it is simply meant to be.
What it is is
everybody’s favorite musical Mormon family from Utah – uh, no, not The
Osmonds, but The Five Browns. And if you’re not hooked up with them yet,
but if you are in the market for a young, fun intriguing classical musical
group to help expand your horizons, then this is your stop.
The Browns were
classical before classical was cool. Their parents (Keith and Lisa),
manager Joel Diamond and recording label RCA Red Seal unleashed them unto
the world in 2005 (with a self-titled debut CD). The world responded
The media gave them a
huge “What? What?” as they climbed the scales to the top of the
Billboard charts, just like Nelly or Green Day. Since then, they’ve
chatted it up with everyone from Oprah to Jay Leno to those yentahs
on The View.
The excitement for the
Browns – especially by young people, whose collective knowledge of
classical music wouldn’t fill a thimble – revived an art form that was
dying of neglect for decades. Now, everyone from kindergartners to
collegians are high-fiving them at packed concerts across the country.
Classical music may
scare you, but these All-American kids won’t. They have names right out of
the shopping mall: Ryan, 20 years old, Melody, 21, Gregory 23, Deondra, 25
and Desirae, 27. And yet, these are not sheltered little suburbanites from
the prairie. They may not be exactly street, but they have spent a good
amount of time and education on the mean scene of Manhattan, honing their
craft at the serious Juilliard School of Music.
Their thing is to play
– breathtakingly -- as a complete ensemble as well as in various
combinations. They also play videogames, bowl and eat pizza, but the fact
that they can make you love something you thought you would hate makes you
want to eat them right up.
CD #2 – entitled No
Boundaries – is the logical next phase of their burgeoning career.
Their sophomore effort – created by a bunch of well-scrubbed kids who
look like sophomores – is making its sound known currently.
What’s with the deep
“It’s a documentation
of us realizing that boundaries in classical music are being broken down,”
Gregory says. “We’re trying to get younger kids involved, as well as
people who don’t know very much about classical music. We’re finding that
there is a lot that can be done.”
Adds Desirae: “For some
reason, people think that classical music is so different from other
musical genres out there. Classical music is everything that pop, rock,
rap is… the drama, the love, the hate. It’s all in there. If anything,
it’s amplified. Sometimes, they just need somebody to guide them through
it. That’s what we feel we’re doing. We talk on stage. We give them our
personal impressions of the music, and maybe something to listen for.
Sometimes they feel that classical is too abstract, but the pieces we pick
for our albums we’re really excited about because we feel that people can
really connect with it.”
This may or may not be
a huge order for a group of siblings who must also adhere to their strict
religious beliefs. As Mormons, they can’t exactly live the life of a Van
Halen, but devotion to the Lord has its benefits.
Melody says, “When
we’re on the road and it gets kind of stressful, we always feel that it’s
not just us and that we’re being led along. We didn’t plan this at all. It
just kind of happened. It keeps us grounded in knowing that we can believe
in a higher source.”
“I think [our belief
system] also influences our music,” Desirae says. “So much of the great
classical music has a spiritual element to it. We definitely connect with
that, especially with [our rendition of] the Shaker Hymn. It’s a hymn and
yet it feels relevant in a way. It adds balance to our lives. If all of
this went away, we would still be happy people. When we set out to do this
album, we wanted to stay the same people we were then, throughout anything
that came along.
“It helps us feel joy
through the journey of all of this,” Melody says. “We’re not just stuck up
in a destination. We just have a good time when we’re together on the
road. It’s more like ‘in the moment.’”
“Deondra and I were the
first ones to go off to school in New York,” Desirae recalls. “When people
first come to
New York City,
they either love it or hate it. We loved it the minute we stepped foot in
it -- the energy, the culture. In Utah, you totally find inspiration
through the peace that that the environment brings. In New York, you find
inspiration through the energy of the people. The difference in values is
challenging in a way to get used to standing by what we believe while also
“We take it as a
compliment when we hear, ‘oh, you’re not from here, are you?’” Deondra
adds. “We feel like we get the best of both.”
Not that it’s all
sweetness and light at all times.
“It takes a long time
to decide what pieces we’re playing and what parts we’re playing on those
pieces,” Ryan says. “We have to set a couple of days aside just to figure
Deondra adds, “Among
the five of us, I don’t think anybody could claim that role. We are all so
independent. We have to come to a consensus, but it’s so important for
each of us to have our say.”
There always seems to
be two camps, but sometimes mom helps with the decisions, and she’s a
reliable source. It was mom who sang opera and played piano, while baby
#1, Desirae, toddled over and reached up to the keys. From then on, it
became a rite of passage at three-years-old for each sibling to follow
So piano lessons do pay
off after all. Those humble beginnings led to quite the rabid following.
Melody says, “It’s
incredible. I remember that we were in Idaho, in a small college town
there. And we just walked out on stage and there were four thousand
screaming college students. We were like, ‘are they expecting someone
Gregory jokes, “They do
know what tickets they bought, right? We thought it was cool. We were down
with it. A lot of classical musicians are a little bit stuffy, and they
may have had a problem with [wildly enthusiastic crowds]. Most people at a
classical concert can’t outwardly show their enthusiasm for what they are
hearing. If I am sitting in a classical concert, I would actually like to
vocalize my enthusiasm.”
That kind of energy may
throw off an older classical musician, but these kids thrive on it.
“We are so lucky to be
able to travel together,” Deondra says. “Most people can’t say that they
can even travel with their close friends. We feel very blessed. In the
classical music world, the soloists travel by themselves. It gets so
lonely. You’re out there, struggling to try to figure out who you are. We
have each other.”
This new project gives
fans and newcomers a particularly close way to see as well as hear them,
as it is being marketed as both a CD and a DVD.
Desirae says, “On the
DVD side there are three music videos. It enhances the music that you see
visually just how the five of us work together. You can see the
interaction between us as we play. There is interaction in chamber music
anyway, but with five siblings, you can see our eye contact and how much
fun we have doing it.”
“We were able to film
the videos on the
Bonneville Salt Flats
in Utah,” Deondra says. “It was amazing for the five of us to be out in
the middle of nowhere, on the flats, performing this great music.”
Melody exclaims, “Oh,
my goodness, it was amazing recording ‘Firebird’ as the sun was setting!”
Desirae agrees: “It was
amazing to be out there in nature with the sun setting and the music that
is so moving on so many levels. It’s just one of those moments that we
will never forget.”
The gang is working on
creating more unforgettable moments, and their growing fan base is waiting
less than patiently. Another album and tour is likely in their near
future, as well as some love given to VH1’s good cause, called Save The
Music, which works toward strengthening school music programs.
“We’re just taking it
day by day,” Gregory says. “We love going on the road together. We love
In the meantime, the
dual CD and DVD are here to show us that the Browns are without
boundaries, and what other way would we really want it?
Email us Let us know what you think.