Nightly News   |  February 26, 2013

Brothers’ passion for music a South Side inspiration

The McGill brothers grew up in a tough Chicago neighborhood, but their parents never gave up on helping them follow their dream – now both brothers are not only accomplished musicians in major orchestras, they are also giving back to their hometown. NBC’s Ron Allen reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finally tonight, most mentions of the city of chicago of late have, sadly, concerned gun violence, but tonight we have a story about two brothers enjoying a lot of success and showing some kids something they never thought possible. the mcgill brothers are among a group of 100 african-americans featured on our nbc news website,, and tonight ron allen has their story.

>> reporter: passion and artistry lift the mcgill brothers to lofty heights. demarre plays lead flute with the seattle symphony . kid brother anthony is the principal clarinettist for the world-renowned new york metropolitan opera . rising stars in the rarefied world of classical music , where just 4% of the musicians in national orchestras are african-american or latino. why classical music ?

>> i was drawn to the stories that i heard as a kid, musical stories, and my imagination would just go wild.

>> when i was listening to an orchestra or i was playing the clarinet, somehow, it got deeper into my soul.

>> reporter: they started on the south side of chicago , known for its urban problems, not the classics.

>> hi, sweetheart!

>> reporter: parents ira, a retired teacher, and demarre sr., a former firefighter, say they mortgaged the house five times to pay for lessons.

>> the pads look good.

>> reporter: they still have demarre's first flute and a little something he scribbled down when he was just 15.

>> "goals for the future, to be the best artist in the world

>> wlfer they perform on stage, it's almost like you forget to breathe.

>> reporter: they attribute their success to a chicago non-profit that's been offering free lessons to inner city kids after school since 1979 , the merit school, where they're now treated like rock stars .

>> they provided us a community of people that look like us doing the same thing.

>> reporter: they won competitions, scholarships to prestigious schools, and at age 14 and 18, performed in a very special neighborhood.

>> bravo, gentlemen.

>> reporter: where's the rivalry? all siblings have rivalries. who got better grades in school?

>> oh, see, well, there you go.

>> you probably did.

>> me.

>> reporter: now their goal is to inspire. and share their love of music.

>> it brings feelings to you and it helps you express yourself .

>> reporter: while taking their place among the great musicians of their time. ron allen , nbc news,