Five very talented, very cute sibling pianists have created a sensation in the classical music world. Their chart-topping, self-titled debut disc and current tour feature the five in solo, duo, and full-force arrays around five Steinways, showcasing a suite from Bernstein's "West Side Story" along with classical favorites and rarities. The 5 Browns, ranging in age from 20-year-old Ryan to 26-year-old Desirae, share Julliard-trained technique and refreshing interpretative ability.
Assembled in front of a speakerphone by their Mormon father/road manager, Keith, the Browns exude the perkiness that makes their performances so attractive.
Can you account for how the Brown genes got distributed, personality-wise or otherwise?
Gregory: There's pretty much two different sides in our family. There's the nonchalant, easygoing, irresponsible side, and then there's the intense, work-driven, get-down-to-business, responsible mold. All five of us fall into one of those categories.
What individualities come out on stage?
Desirae: I guess Deondra is driven, aggressive, rhythmic. Gregory is very passionate, a bravura kind of player. And then there's Melody, who's very artistic, and kind of poetic, she's very expressive. Ryan, he's pretty easygoing, he likes to have fun and you can see that on stage.
Melody: And I'll take over for Desi. She and I have similar tastes in how we interpret music. She's very artistic, and has a certain grace about her.
Melody, you stated on your website bio [www.the5browns.com] that you consider classical more "intense" than other music. What do you mean by that?
Melody: When I'm listening to a Mahler symphony or Wagner, it's just full of passion, something you just don't find in pop music.
Would a rock musician ever be capable of reaching that level of intensity?
Gregory: There are bands out there. I used to be a huge fan of Rage Against the Machine. Before they broke up, they had so much intensity, and they could get a crowd going like you wouldn't believe -- so much fire and anger and passion.
One of you stated that "the classical audience is only shrinking and getting grayer," so there's a motivation to reach out to your own generation. Is it working?
Desirae: In classical music, there's been so much etiquette, I think young people were turned off by that. So at concerts, we try to keep it relaxed. We talk to the audience in between pieces, much like they do at a pop concert. We change our outfits for the second half, into jeans.
Do you guys have a lot to say about how you're marketed?
Deondra: Actually, we do. When we were approached to sign a CD contract with BMG, we told them we wanted fashion photographers to take our pictures, and to get the CDs into the mass media, out of just the classical realm. And they were very receptive.
What do the five pianos do with "West Side Story" that we might not have been able to hear with the orchestra or single piano versions?
Gregory: In that show, there was a lot of fighting going on, and that's kind of what happens with the interplay between five pianos. There's battles between us, there's love. It's really fun to play off each other.
Are any of you beginning to think about spinning off into individual careers?
Gregory: We're gonna take the five-of-us thing and see where it can take us. Maybe sometime in the future, if one or more of us wants to take it easy for a bit, we'll decide after that.
Some people must wonder whether your grounding in the Mormon faith has any effect on what you're doing.
Desirae: It definitely has an effect. Music binds our family, but our faith binds us together even more. We're trying to be good examples, not only for classical music but the way we live our lives. You notice the clothes we wear, the fashions we choose, it's in style, but it's not Britney Spears, we're not showing too much skin.
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