The Arts in Education
The 5 Browns Belt Out Tunes For The Students of P.S. 102
Fresh off the release of their third album, Browns In Blue, the classical piano music quintet, The 5 Browns performed several songs from their albums in the auditorium of P.S 102 in Spanish Harlem recently.
The 5 Browns consist of siblings Desirae, 28, Deondra, 26, Gregory, 24, Melody, 23 and Ryan, 21. Each of the five members of the group began their classical music training at age three when their mother Lisa Brown looked for constructive activities that her children could do.
Each child decided on the piano; their first foray came through the Suzuki repertoire, playing renditions of children’s songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” They graduated onto more complicated pieces and each developed an extraordinary talent. Together they dominated local amateur talent competitions in their home states of Texas and Utah.
Looking for a new challenge and a way to nurture and augment their talent, the family moved to New York City so each child could attend the ultra prestigious performing arts conservatory, the Julliard School of Music. Initially the transition was not easy. Melody Brown explains, “In our small towns you get used to winning things and getting attention and you get to Julliard and there are so many talented kids. You just have to learn to focus on yourself and know ‘As long as I’m getting better that’s all I really care about.’”
The Browns faced other challenges throughout their musical career such as trying to maintain their personal and social lives despite the rigorous demands of their professional lives. But the group has persevered and managed to overcome these challenges on their way to a successful music career that has seen them sell out numerous concert halls from New York City to Japan, have two number one albums on the Billboard Classical charts and seen them perform in television shows such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The View.
It was appropriate that their performance took place in PS 102 since it is one of the seventeen public schools in New York City that is a partner school of Education Through Music, a not for profit organization committed to bringing a comprehensive music program and instruction to underprivileged children. The school was also celebrating “Gershwin Day” in honor of famed musician and composer George Gershwin.
The morning began with a group of students playing a rendition of the George Gershwin song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” From there the 5 Browns took the stage and played a piece from their new album, Browns In Blue, called “Home Blues From an American in Paris”. After that they explained their inspiration for the piece and talked about their musical careers with the audience. They played a second piece for the students called “Rhapsody in Blue” from their second album, No Boundaries, and after that they took and answered several questions for the students.
It is this kind of interaction with students that motivates the Browns to continue their music careers despite their interest in other things Deondra Brown explains. “Although we could have done other things, I think our real passion lies in this and it is very rare you get to have a job that you’re really, really passionate about. We’ve been very blessed to take what we love and bring it to people.” Gregory Brown adds, “It’s days like today when you come in to work and all these kids are smiling and learning a piece you played for them. You see that you’re actually making a difference.”#
Alberto Cepeda is a student at the City College of N.Y.