Life after Juilliard: 5 siblings tour the world sharing their passion for music, translated orchestra scores

Members of the group "The 5 Browns" pose for album cover. The five are siblings who all studied at Juilliard and released their first album in 2005. "The 5 Browns," Photo provided.
Members of the group "The 5 Browns" pose for album cover. The five are siblings who all studied at Juilliard and released their first album in 2005. "The 5 Browns," Photo provided.

"The 5 Browns" Concert

Time: 7:30 p.m.

When: Friday, Sept. 14

Where: Emens Auditorium, Muncie, IN

How: Students and staff get a free BOGO ticket with their Ball State ID. All other adult tickets are $20

Throughout the ages, millions of artists have used their talents to become household names in history including recent artists such as Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. 

While many tend to forget outstanding historical artists because they are so absorbed in the present, the five Brown siblings — Desirae, Deondra, Gregory, Melody and Ryan — run “against the grain.” 

Since they each turned three, the siblings have been playing classical piano and  working to perfect their skills to one day play in Carnegie Hall. 

“I don’t remember starting to play the very first time … but it was like a coming of age for all of us,” said Melody, the second to youngest of the five Brown siblings. “We all wanted to do what our older siblings were doing.”

Throughout their childhood, their parents even had them try other instruments including the violin, the guitar and the flute, but nothing seemed to “click” as well as the piano. 

Their parents eventually gave in to the idea that their five children were in love with the piano and worked to help create new inspirations for them. 

“During a Christmas while we were living in New York, our parents got us subscription tickets to Carnegie Hall,” Melody said. “We got to witness all of these incredible performers — some solo, some groups. The whole experience was just inspiring beyond words.”

The 5 Browns” are currently in the process of releasing their seventh album as well as kicking off their most recent tour at Ball State. 

For more than 15 years, “The 5 Browns” have traveled across the world performing music by artists including Igor Stravinsky, 1882, George Gershwin, 1898, and Richard Rodgers, 1902. Sometimes during their shows, each member has their own piano, but they have also been known to perform together on one. 

Before releasing their first album that put their name on the charts, all five Brown siblings studied at The Juilliard School, a music school with a 6 percent acceptance rate according to the U.S. News and World Report

Desirae, the oldest, was the first to attend Juilliard in 1998. During the span of eight years, there were at least two of the siblings there at a time, and for five years, all of them were in attendance at different stages of their college career. 

Before her and her two brothers got their acceptance letters, Melody said it just felt like everyone was following separate paths. 

“It didn’t really sink in until I actually got there,” Melody said. “There is such a small percentage of people accepted that when you actually get there, you realize how much talent is actually there and how much work you have to put in to keep up with what you have.”

During their time at Juilliard, all five siblings had Yhevev Kaplinsky, a teacher who Melody said “pushed them all to be the best they could be.” 

“Kaplinsky was such a mentor for all of us, and she really inspired us all,” Melody said. “But there was a lot of extra pressure put on me beyond just getting in because the teachers had already had my siblings, and they already had expectations for me before meeting me.”

In 2002, “The 5 Browns” experienced their first taste of the press when they were featured on Oprah and 60 Minutes as well as in a People magazine article that called them the “Fab Five.”

They released their first self-titled album, “The 5 Browns,” following the press coverage in 2005. Since then, they have released five other albums over the course of eight years. 

“I think all of us would agree that our sixth album, ‘The Rite of Spring,’ is our favorite,” Melody said. “We had Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ transcribed for five pianos. It was like being able to be in a rock band for us because there is so much energy in that album. We just really went for it each time we got on stage with that album.”

Currently, Melody said “The 5 Browns” are waiting to release their seventh album, which they have already finished recording. She also said that this album should be released alongside a children’s book. 

Along with their new album, “The 5 Browns” are also getting ready to begin a new tour which starts with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, in Emens Auditorium. Melody said the tour will only last a couple weeks before the siblings head home for a break. 

“We are all super excited because it’s always fun to come back from the summer when we’ve had a bigger break and get to catch up with one another,” Melody said. “We also can’t wait to feel the vibe of being on stage again.”

Robert Palmer, a Porter distinguished professor of music at Ball State, said that having “The 5 Browns” perform at Ball State is significant because they are a unique group. 

“A typical piano recital consists of one pianist,” Palmer said. “Having five pianists offers a variety of combinations with the pianos, and the Browns offer a wide selection of repertoire as well.”

Additionally, Palmer added that, for the size of Muncie, the music scene is fairly large, but there's still a lot that “The 5 Browns” can add.

“‘The 5 Browns’ will definitely enrich the musical scene for two main reasons,” Palmer said. “It is a very unique format that I think will inspire our students, and they are just terrific musicians.”

Melody said her and her siblings are looking forward to playing at Ball State because they get to see other students’ passion for music after the concert during their meet and greet in the lobby. 

In March, “The 5 Browns” have plans to tour in Moscow, and Melody said they have a lot more on their bucket list to accomplish in the future. 

“We know that 15 years has been a long time,” Melody said. “But we still have the drive to keep going, so you know we will.”

Contact Tier Morrow with comments at tkmorrow@bsu.edu or on Twitter @tiermorrow

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