“This show isn’t about the violin, it’s about breaking stereotypes,” said Black Violin frontman Kev Marcus.
On Saturday, Black Violin performed their hip-hop and classical fusion music to a spirited audience at the Luhrs Performing Arts Center. The classically trained duo – violinist Kev Marcus and violist Wil Baptiste – hail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The set also included DJ SPS, drummer Nat Stokes and pianist Liston Gregory III.
Black Violin earned a Grammy nomination for their latest release, “Take the Stairs.” The band backed Alicia Keys and performed on the same schedule as the Wu-Tang Clan, also working with artists like Kanye West, Tom Petty and Lupe Fiasco. They were also invited to perform at former US President Barack Obama’s Kids Inaugural Concert.
Before their rise to fame, Marcus and Baptiste met in their high school orchestra class at Dillard HS of Performing Arts. Baptiste had wanted to study the saxophone, but the viola was the only instrument available, and Marcus’ mother made him take violin lessons.
“To the young musicians in the audience: practice, practice, practice,” Marcus said, inspiring the many young faces in attendance. “Find that thing you love. Find that thing, and one day someone will pay you to do it.
At Luhrs, Black Violin captivated audiences with their unexpected violin and viola styles. One might have expected a traditional, classical gig, but Black Violin turned that idea on its head as the band did covers of Imagine Dragons, Daniel Caesar and recognizable orchestral pieces. Baptiste not only plays the viola, but is also a singer and plays his viola like an electric guitar while serenading the audience.
Black Violin included many segments alluding to popular music, even referencing the story of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, where a violinist must fight the devil.
They encouraged flash photography and invited members of the public to get up and dance if they felt like it. The show as a whole was incredibly fun and the audience was very receptive – cheering along with the songs and verbally encouraging the performers.
Marcus and Baptiste responded with expressive bows and big smiles, and everyone could feel the love. The show included many aspects to keep the show visually entertaining, such as choreographed lights and fog machines.
“Some call it ‘improv’,” Marcus said before the band began their next song, “We call it freestyle.” Each Black Violin musician was highlighted in their own segment, including the improvisation portion of the show.
The DJ SPS section included a transition from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to “Yeah!” of Usher. truly highlighting the band’s range of inspirations.
Marcus and Baptiste laid the groundwork for each other and built up the beats during the freestyle section, showcasing their artistic chemistry after playing together for so many years.
Prior to the pandemic, Black Violin had committed to playing more than 200 shows a year. Many of them were aimed at low-income students in urban areas. They aim to challenge ideas about stereotypes by bringing people together through music.
Black Violin also launched the Black Violin Foundation Inc., which is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing quality music programs in communities.
Not only is Black Violin committed to their passions, but they also improve the world around them in any way they can.
For more information on upcoming performances and music, follow Black Violin on Instagram @blackviolin or visit their website (https://blackviolin.net). Black Violin’s five studio albums are also available on all streaming platforms.