BLACK VIOLIN—Wil Baptiste, white shirt, Kev Marcus black shirt and hat. (Photo by Renee P. Aldrich)

BLACK VIOLIN—Wil Baptiste, white shirt, Kev Marcus black shirt and hat. (Photo by Renee P. Aldrich)









Hill District residents were privy to spectacular performance experience on Thursday Sept. 22 “Black Violin”—the place where hip-hop, rhythm and blues and Classical Converge in a concert which was held in the Hill District at the Hill House Association Elsie Hillman Auditorium as part of the Hill House Association’s  “Live from the Hill Series,”

It was the place to be in Pittsburgh for a enthralling night of innovative musical performance.

The fire they speak of in the saying we don’t need no water, let the so and so burn was happening on the auditorium stage where both the main auditorium and the balcony were packed.

The duo, Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste, two who met more than 20 years ago in high School, and  go by the stage names of Kev Marcus and Wil B;  crushed the staged with a high energy, fast and furious performance that included their mind blowing DJ and drummer—all the while keeping the audience engaged as well as entertained.

The Duo are game changers when it comes to breaking down the barriers that keep African American youngsters from developing an appreciation of the classical genre.

With their hats on backwards and Jordans on their feet these musicians demonstrated that there is fun to be had with a Violin, a Viola a DJ and a Drummer.

With a diverse repertoire contained not only noted tunes by mainstream artists like Rihana, Chris Brown, and Drake to name a few as well as some of their original compositions, they connected with the youngsters in the attendance and demonstrated their versatility by also singing and playing keyboards.

They took a rendition of a classical piece by Bach and gave it an infusion of funk that really brought the house down.

Discovered by sending a tape into Showtime At the Apollo, they got discovered three years later by accident.

They began performing 12 years ago from the time of that fateful performance at the Apollo, where they did not get booed, their goal became to work to change the way people viewed the violin. “We’ve found that our audiences come in all sizes and all ages—we don’t have a specific demographic all backgrounds and colors are able to appreciate our music,” they shared. “One of the coolest experiences we’ve had has been the two trips we made to entertain the troops in Iraq, in 2009 and 2010, they were most appreciative. “

Dancing, singing, and supercharged energy made this one of the most successful concerts since Stevie Wonder was in town.

Added to this event was a conversation by viola player, Wil B to the young people in the audience.

He urged them to remember to bring power to their lives by being willing to step outside the box in seeking their dreams.

Be willing to try something new, he said. “I never thought that this violin would take care of my family—but it does, and I have fun doing it. Being better than anyone else at what you do, and pushing the envelope, will take you further”.

Kim El, program coordinator with the Jeron X. Grayson Center After School Program, attended the concert with 15 of their students. She said “this was an outstanding opportunity to expose the students to classical music in such a fun way, I’m certain that because classical music is perceived to be boring; most likely they would not choose to attend a concert of this nature—thus why the exposure is important.”

She continues, “but performing the songs of artists they like, and with all the lights and presence of DJ, and a drummer, the kids were pulled in and able to identify.”

El also shared that on the bus ride home, a 16 year old female student, Payton Bell, said her favorite part was how they mixed Drake’s music into the collection of classical music.

“Live from the Hill” has become one of Pittsburgh’s signature arts programs, with a series of world-renowned authors, artists and performers.  Jeffery J. Anderson, COO of the Hill House Association, explains “Through the ‘Live from the Hill Series,’ our goal is to motivate and inspire by bringing unique and provocative artists to Pittsburgh that no one would look to bring.  I think we hit the mark with these young men.”


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