Arts & Culture

Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.

Black Violin

Written by Joe Ulrich, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | Sep 22, 2016 12:39 PM

For Kev Marcus and Wil Baptiste of the musical duo Black Violin, convincing venues and clubs to let them play was...a little difficult.

"I got these two black guys," says Kev Marcus, the group's violinst, talking about how they were percieved when they were just starting out. "They play violin and they wanna come rock your dance club, you know, in South Beach. So most of the time people would just kinda laugh us out the door...So, we had to kind of get in the hard way. We'd just kind of be on the side of the sidewalk...and we'd just start playing right there and get a crowd right in front of the club we wanted to play at. The owner would come up and be like 'Wow, what's this?' And we'd be like 'We'll play your club for free tonight.'"

The two have found an outlet for their unusual combination of classical, hip-hop and R&B, which has its beginnings back when the two were in high school together in South Florida.

"Will and I met in high school in orchestra class. First day of our freshman year. Every day, second period, we played Bach and Beethoven and Mozart. But for us on the way to third period or throughout the rest of the day, we were listening to Jay-Z and Nas and Biggie and Wu-Tang, all kinds of hip hop. So, we always lived hip hop and we were part of what we feel is the golden era of hip hop, like right in the 1990s. So, we grew up right there, but we also studied classical music all at the same time. We studied it a pretty high level. So for us, it just kind was really natural for us to really put both of them together. When we finished college, we got back together and just kind of made it happen."

Kev and Wil have played a number of impressive gigs, accompanying Alica Keys at the 2004 Billboard awards, working with Kanye West, Tom Petty, Lupe Fiasco and Aerosmith. They also do a lot of outreach with children and work to dispel stereotypes.

"It lets them know that there's no limit to what they can do. You can use all the things you have around you in your environment to create a better you and to add something to the world. It's all about doing what you love and finding different ways to share that with the world. It's about trying to stretch the envelope."

 A performance by Black Violin isn't quite like other performances you may have seen.

"I'm the violinist of the group and then there's a vioalist who's a lead singer and then we have a drummer and a DJ. So, that's what we have on stage. I think just thinking about that you try to, in your head, figure out what that's going to sound like. The second thing, it's very loud and engergetic. So it's more reminiscent of a rock concert than it is a classical performance. Very loose, very informal. I think we must have the most diverse audience that you'll ever see. A lot of kids come to our shows. We speak to them during our shows. A lot of grandmas at the show too, so its a little bit of everyone. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I guarantee you've never seen anything like it."

If you want to experience a Black Violin performance, they're coming to the Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading on October 7th.

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