When one thinks of the kind of music normally associated with the violin or the viola, one usually thinks of classical music played in fancy, ornate halls with people sitting in a sedate manner. There's no "nodding of the head" or "shaking of the hips." The kind of music that, as legendary musician George Clinton might say, "devoid of funk."
While that might be the case some of the time, a few musicians have emerged to "flip the classical script." One such group is the dynamic duo of Black Violin.
Black Violin are a pair of classically-trained artists who have infused classical music with their own special brand of hip-hop, jazz, r&b and pop, thrilling audiences all around the world.
Learn more about Kevin Marcus (aka Kev Marcus) and Wilner Baptiste (aka Wil-B) of
Black Violin now!
A. We both met in orchestra class at the Dillard High School of Performing Arts in Florida.
Q2. How long have you been playing together?
A. We've been playing together as a group once we both completed college.
FYI: Because of their immense talent, Kev Marcus and Wil-B b both earned FULL music scholarships at Florida International University and Florida State University, respectively.
Q3. How did you decide upon the violin and the viola?
A. Wil-B: I actually wanted to play the saxophone but was put in viola class. Immediately, I felt an instant connection.
Kev Marcus: My mother actually made me play the instrument and eventually I came to love it.
Q4. How did your family encourage you?
A. Wil-B: I was encouraged by a security guard at my school. He told me daily to: stop beating on the tables, take up an instrument and go out and make money playing the instrument.
Kev Marcus: My mother encouraged me by forcing the instrument on me because
I kept getting in trouble in my neighborhood. She kept making me stay involved.
Q5. What are some misconceptions about the violin and the viola?
A. The perceptions are that the violin and viola are not cool. Boring even. We break that stereotype down by making them cool and interesting for all to enjoy.
Q6. Which teacher(s) had the most influence on you and why?
A. Mr. Miles had the most influence on us both. He saw so much potential in us. Mr. Miles would constantly push us and would not allow for slacking off.
Q7. When did you know that you could make a career out of this? Were you ever discouraged?
A. The Apollo is when we realized that we could make a living from this. We've never been discouraged by the music. It was our outlet.
Q8. How did your collaboration with Alicia Keys come about?
A. After winning at the Apollo in 2005, we were so excited that we went up to Alicia's manager's office looking for him to help us out in our career. He loved what we were doing but had nothing we could work on with her at the time. A few days later, he reached out to us and asked us to join Alicia on the Billboard Awards. Changed our careers forever!
Q9. How often do you perform annually? Where?
A. We are touring musicians and do about 200 shows a year. We perform at colleges, middle school and high schools, festivals, theatres, corporate events, etc.
Q.10. What are some of your favorite places to perform?
A. Some of our favorite places include South Africa, Dubai and China, to name a few.
Q11. Who are your favorite musican(s) and why?
A. Victor Wooten is a famous bass player. His ability to "think out the box" as a bass player is amazing. Curtis Mayfield because of his ability to not only be a mainstream artist but to speak on life experiences that gives you something to vibe to.
Q12. Who are your favorite violinist(s)?
A. Stuff Smith.
FYI: You can learn more about Stuff Smith by listening to his music on YouTube. It was the name of Stuff Smith's last album, "Black Violin" that lead to their name.
Q13. What are your favorite classical musician(s) and why?
A. Shostakovich. His story translates well in his music. His style is considered dark and atonal.
Q14. I was surprised to learn that some people have actually left during one of your concerts. Why do you think that was and do you feel that misconceptions still abound?
A. Well, as a musician, you will always have someone who doesn't agree with something because you are on an "open platform" to be critiqued. Sometimes, people think the show will be classically-based. Other times, people feel that the music is too loud, etc.
The reasons vary but at the end of the day, people never know what to expect from Black Violin if you've never seen us perform. After seeing us perform, we can usually change people's perspective of the instrument.
Q15. Tell me more about your social campaign using youth orchestras? Why is this important?
A. This is important because kids need to be exposed to classical music. Youth orchestras are one way to make this possible. We have done these orchestras our entire lives growing up.
It has kept us engaged. We feel its good to see others playing in your community.
Q16. What are your long-term music goals?
A. Win a Grammy and sell 10 million records!
Q17. Who do you want to collaborate with next?
A. Cold Play and Stevie Wonder.
Q18. What's something people would be surprised to learn about the both of you?
A. That we are from the Caribbean. FYI: Kev Marcus is from Dominica. Wil-B is from the Bahamas.
Q19. What advice can you give to parents if their children are interested in a music career?
A. Allow the kids to stay active in learning the basics but also allow the children to explore and "think out the box."
Q20. What advice can you give parents to broaden their children's musical tastes?
A. Allow the children to listen to all genres of music so that they can find their comfort zone to play what they feel. However, make sure that they remember they cannot do this without the basics: classical and scales.
Q21. Is there anything else you would like to share?
A. We have a new album out called: "Classically Trained" which is available on iTunes.
We will continue to innovate explore and expand our music to all listeners.
As an aside, readers should know that Kev Marcus and Wil-B are some of the most gracious musicians you will ever want to meet. My youngest child recently attended their concert at The New Victory Theatre (November 6-25) where they allowed for pictures and autographs.
Support good music! Support Black Violin at their website: http://www.blackviolin.net/!
To learn where you can find music classes for your own child in the New York area, order my book by clicking here.
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