Black Violin effortlessly mixes classical and hip-hop

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Wil B and Kev Marcus of Black Violin want to teach young kids that classical music is cool.

“We come from the inner city and we understand the situations that kids are facing. We want to give back. We want kids to pick up instruments and never put them down. We want kids to understand that they can do anything they set their minds to,” said Wil B, a 29-year-old Viola player and Florida native who is one half of the classical, jazz, hip-hop musical sensation that is Black Violin. The other half of the dynamic group is violinist Kev Marcus, who is also 29 years old and hails from Florida.

BlackViolin
BLACK VIOLIN—Kev Marcus, violin, and Wil B on viola.

“We really want them to think outside the box when it comes to music,” Wil said.

That’s one of the lessons that Black Violin strives to teach listeners—whether they be eight-year-old students or 80-year-old grandmothers—when they attend a Black Violin performance.

The music is toe-tapping and different and keeps listeners entertained throughout the whole show and yearning to hear more from these classically trained musicians.

“Our mission is to bridge the gap between and showcase violins and string instruments so that young people like the strings and think they are cool,” Wil explained.

Black Violin’s unique mission is what caused the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Education Center to book the group for a two-day performance last week, Wilson said.

“We love the juxtaposition of classical to hip-hop. The musicians are classically trained, which enforces our belief that to be successful in your art or your craft, you must practice and strive to get better all the time,” said Janis Burley Wilson, vice president of Education and Community Outreach at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Arts Education Center opened in October 2009. It offers classes and workshops for the community six days a week in such mediums as visual art, dance and theater.

Black Violin—who got its name from the final album released by iconic violinist Stuff Smith, entitled Black Violin—burst onto the music scene in 2004, joining songstress Alicia Keys on stage at the Billboard Music Awards.

“We saw that the music was something beautiful. We realized that people liked the violin and viola,” Wil said.

A year later, the prolific group won the coveted title of Apollo Legend by the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Mike Shinoda, lead singer of rock group Linkin Park invited Black Violin along on a world tour with his hip-hop side group, Fort Minor. This once-in-a lifetime opportunity allowed Wil and Kev to introduce their amazing music to a worldwide audience.

“We decided to mix up classical music and hip-hop because classical music was declining—at least in Florida—and we wanted to do something because there is a group of people who enjoy hip-hop and there is a group of people who enjoy classical music. You hear strings in hip-hop and R&B but the instruments are never in the forefront. We put the instruments in the forefront,” said Wil.

Soon after returning from the world tour, Black Violin released its debut album, which made the music industry sit up and take notice thanks to its tight harmonies and musical cohesiveness.

“Black Violin works because you can’t deny something that’s real. No matter how much you try to imitate a violin you can’t do it. You need real emotion and that’s going to set you apart from everyone else,” Wil said.

Black Violin’s next album, aptly titled “Classically Trained,” is set to hit stores early next year.

“It will show the classical side of Black Violin,” Wil said.

(For more information on Black Violin, visit http://www.black­violin.net.)

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