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‘5 Browns’ visit ESK

Students at Episcopal School of Knoxville were surprised by a visit from classical piano virtuosos “The 5 Browns” Thursday, March 13.

“This has just been an incredibly fabulous day for the Episcopal school. Earlier in the week we found out “The 5 Browns” were willing to come and do a small concert for our school. And then Bill Jones found out they were going to be playing on just a small upright that we have here at the school and Bill Jones and Bill Jones Music donated the time and the moving of these two grand pianos. So we went from like zero to 1,000 in about an hour-and-a-half,” ESK music teacher Debbie Sousa said.

The Yamaha piano’s were worth more than $200,000.

Jones, who was in attendance, said, “This is a great school and I have worked with the Browns before and they are a great group. I just wanted to be part of this and wanted to help.”

Sousa was surprised, at the last minute, to find out that all five of the Brown siblings would be playing for the students.

“We were told one or two, so this morning when we got a phone call saying they were all in the car we just screamed,” she said.

“The 5 Browns,” Desirea, Deondra, Gregory, Melody and Ryan, range in age from 22 to 29, and have been touring together as a family since the release of their first album, “The 5 Browns,” in 2005, and were in Knoxville for a performance that evening at the Tennessee Theatre.

Each of The 5 Browns began playing piano at around age 3 and was trained by New York’s Julliard School. Desirae and Deondra were accepted first, and within a year, Gregory, Melody and Ryan followed.

Melody said the decision to perform for the students at ESK was an easy one.

“One of the things we decided when we first started touring was that we wanted to give kids an appreciation of classical music. It has really become a mission for us.”

The Browns did not just play music for the children, they interacted with them as well, explaining the history behind each song and its composer and ending the concert with a question-and-ans-wer session.

The pivotal moment in the concert came when Gregory, in the middle of composer Aaron Jay-Kernis’ “Superstar Etude,” began playing the piano with his foot.

“Its a lot harder than it looks,” Gregory said. “Even though it looks like I am just banging on the piano with my foot, you still have to hit the right note.

“Everything I do in that piece is actually written into the music. It says ‘throw foot onto bottom of piano’ and it has words written into it to yell ‘Oh Baby.’ The first time I tried to get my foot up there it was really hard, and I had to do a lot of stretches but it is really a fun piece,” he added.

Laura Wallace, co-chair of ESK’s Visiting Artists Committee, was the driving force behind “The 5 Browns’” visit to ESK.

“We have made some contacts throughout the year with the folks from A-C Entertainment and they have been kind enough to link us up with some artists thoroughout the year who are willing to do school visits. So I e-mailed A-C when I saw “The 5 Browns” were coming and asked if there was any chance they would come out, and it just all worked out.

“A-C Entertainment and the folks at the Tennessee Theatre really made it possible for them to come out,” Wallace added.


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