Couple share their passion for music


Jeff and Marlena Brown have been teaching piano in Rancho Santa Fe for more than 25 years, so long that they even have “grand-students.” With students ranging in age from 3 to 86, the couple finds a happy harmony, pairing their love of music with their love of teaching.

“We truly are as thrilled when the last student comes in the door as we are when the first student arrives,” Marlena said. “We have a real joy in what we do.”

The two take a unique team approach to piano lessons: one lesson a student will be taught by Marlena, another they will have Jeff.

Lessons are held out of the couple’s two-piano home and they are very flexible with their scheduling—they only ask students to be on time.

Their students learn at a high level, participating in the American College of Musicians’ national piano playing auditions — all of the Browns’ students have received the highest ranking of superior.

Instead of a long recital featuring every student, the Browns hold private concerts for each student. The student invites their family and friends, plays 16 to 18 pieces, and picks out the colors of the decorations and food for the reception.

Both Browns have long histories in music. Marlena started playing piano at age 5 and by the second grade, she knew she wanted to be a teacher.

Jeff, who learned to play piano at age 4, built his career as a real estate developer and in plastics manufacturing, but his natural ability for music always lingered. Jeff got back into music by starting a musical production company, writing commercial jingles and shows, and eventually joined his wife as a teacher 15 years ago.

Additionally, he has been the organist at the Village Presbyterian Church in Rancho Santa Fe for the last 18 years.

Both teachers stress the importance of discipline or as Marlena puts it: “Doing what you know you ought to do even when you don’t feel like it.”

This discipline applies not just to playing piano, but to other areas of a young student’s life. At the end of each lesson, students shake hands with their teacher and say “Thank you.” Marlena calls them “twinkle handshakes” — teaching the students to shake with firm authority.

To promote mutual respect, the Browns always end a lesson on a positive note, complimenting them on something they did well that day.

For more information on Jeff and Marlena Brown, call (858) 756-1605 or e-mail