The Fab Five

Posted on March 18, 2011

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( From a Wikipedia page edited in the year 2050 about The Fab Five: Classical)

In the early part of this century, there were five teenagers (3 boys, 2 girls) from southern Texas who played the piano very well. Some of them grew up in the barrios of the border town of Laredo, others in middle class neighborhoods of San Antonio. None of them knew each other before high school, so it was a strange but wonderful coincidence that all five of them decided at a young age that they wanted to dedicate their lives to playing the piano. [citation needed]

The kids had won different piano competitions throughout Texas (some significant, most not). In 2016 when they were juniors in high school, a music journalist from a San Antonio news website wrote a feature article about these kids that went viral in the classical music community and in Hispanic communities all over the US. The journalist dubbed these Mexican Texans “The Fab Five” (after Michigan University’s basketball Fab Five from the 1990s.) As a follow-up piece, this journalist decided to arrange for the five kids to meet and put on a concert in Laredo, Texas. The kids played to a full house. After performing their “major works” that the mostly-classical-music-illiterate, mostly Hispanic audience politely listened to, the audience applauded and began shouting out requests to the performers. The requests were not classical music songs, however. They were folk songs. Pop songs. Drinking songs. Being played on a piano. At first, the Fab Five wasn’t sure how to respond. Due to  the demands of pianistic excellence, they had long since left behind much of the music of their Mexican heritage. Nevertheless, according to an eyewitness, “They all sat around two pianos and plunked out what they could remember. The performance was lousy, but the crowd went nuts.” Not only did the audience love it, but the Fab Five themselves say that on that night, they “reconnected with their roots.” From that moment on, they vowed to never perform another concert without first playing/singing/dancing some of the music that they grew up with- no matter how crass it seemed to non-Hispanic patrons.

The Fab Five decided that they wanted to go to college together. They received many scholarship offers (but none from the famous east coast conservatories and music schools), and ultimately chose Rice University (they called it “The Harvard of Texas”) under the condition that their teachers understood and were accepting of the fact that they felt the need to play their “Mexican music” to start any and every concert or recital they played. (“Legitimate” classical music composed by Hispanics did not meet this requirement, but was regularly part of the core of their concert programming.) While this story gained positive national attention from time to time throughout the Fab Five’s four years in school, Rice University’s decision to allow the Fab Five to perform their “Mexican music” at the beginning of each performance was controversial at best, and looked down upon and publicly crucified in much of the classical music community at worst. In spite of the classical community’s mostly negative response to the Fab Five, studies showed some intriguing data regarding the Fab Five’s affect on the classical music scene between 2017 and 2021 (the years they were in school):

  • The Fab Five played 56 consecutive sold out concerts at  Rice University alone
  • The number of college music majors of Hispanic descent in the US increased 1,245%
  • Hispanic patronage of the arts across the US rose to all-time highs
  • Caucasian patronage of the arts was down, as were corporate sponsorships and large individual donations to performing arts organizations

As interest in playing the piano increased dramatically in Hispanic communities, by 2025, piano labs where kids could get piano lessons at dramatically discounted rates opened in border towns all over Texas as well as in San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Houston as part of a statewide initiative of Governor  Selena Gomez honoring the Fab Five’s contributions to Hispanic culture in Texas. The Fab Five regularly makes appearances at these piano labs to perform, speak to communities and encourage the young kids taking piano lessons.

College musicians of every race and creed began doing the same thing the Fab Five did: opening concerts by essentially doing whatever the heck they felt like doing. Some also started to challenge the traditional “black” concert attire in favor of something that more accurately reflected their values and/or their heritage. A few professional artists began doing the same thing without nearly as profound an impact as the youngsters, but as the Fab Five and their contemporaries graduated from college and became fixtures in the US orchestras, opera companies and in the classical music “circuit,” the informal/raucous/bizarre/sentimental beginnings to classical music concerts became the norm by the year 2030.

Classical music purists did not respond well to the season of change ushered in by the Fab Five. Many of them felt that the artists were no longer serving the music or their audiences in their concerts but rather serving themselves with their early concert “antics.” Between 2025 and 2030, large donations to arts organizations plummeted even more along with season ticket subscriptions, but the new found value and emphasis being placed on so-called “Fab” classical music in communities and demographics that had not previously supported those art forms enabled most of the performing arts organizations that existed in the early part of the century to thrive in new and unique ways both artistically and financially at a time when the future of institutionalized classical music had been largely in question. In fact, historians now believe that had it not been for the Fab Five, classical music organizations may have died out completely in the United States after President Sarah Palin cut the National Endowment for the Arts from the federal budget in 2013.

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