By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – The 2020 Grammy-nominated, classical-meets-hip-hop duo Black Violin, with Kev Marcus and Wil Baptiste, performs Oct. 30 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Avenue in Dearborn.
The pair, who met at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, and trained classically on the violin and viola during high school and college, merged their music for hip-hop artists after graduation, and began to play local clubs.
The duo, who tour extensively, hope to challenge stereotypes and preconceived notions of what classically-trained musicians should look and sound like.
Marcus, who started playing the violin when he was in fifth grade, said his mother got him started on the instrument.
“I took it as a class, like taking band or choir,” he said. “I went to a performing arts middle school, and it didn’t really dawn on me that this is where I would end up.”
Marcus said when he got to high school, he had a teacher who encouraged him, which is when he began to realize that playing the violin could be more than just a class he took, and could be a career.
“I didn’t like the factor of having a career wearing a tuxedo, or just working in an orchestra,” he said.
Marcus studied the violin on scholarship at Florida International University in Miami, while Baptiste continued his studies at Florida State University.
“When we were in college was when we started to try to blend in with popular music, and to find ways to bridge the gap between classical and hip-hop,” he said. “We were kind of well-positioned to do it, because we grew up during the golden era of hip-hop, in the ’90s.”
Since Marcus and Baptise grew up with both classical and hip-hop music, they felt if they could find a way to blend them, in a way that didn’t offend fans of either genre, then they would have achieved their goal.
“The concert is educational, entertaining and inspiring,” Marcus said. “That is what we are aiming for. We want you to be entertained and to see something you have never seen before.”
He said he plays an electric violin when performing onstage for the same reason a guitarist would play an electrical guitar on stage, for the amplification and the sound.
Marcus said 90 to 95 percent of the music they play in concert are their own compositions, as well.
“We will blend Bruno Mars with Bach, and Iggy with Mozart, but for the most part, it is our original music,” he said.
Marcus said much of the music they will play at their Dearborn concert will be from their 2019 album “Take the Stairs,” which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Classical and Classical crossover charts, and was nominated for a 2020 Grammy for best contemporary instrumental album.
“Black Violin is a little bit of everything, in a way that you have never heard it before,” he said. “It is one of those things that is a meal, not a snack, and there is more to the performance than just music; it is a unifying, immersive experience.”
Marcus said Black Violin has a foundation, blackviolinfoundation.org, dedicated to empowering youth by fostering a love of music and providing access to quality music programs while encouraging creativity.
When attending the Black Violin concert at the Ford COMPAC, masks must be worn, regardless of vaccination status.
Tickets are $55 for orchestra A, $45 for orchestra B and $45 and $30 for the balcony, plus a $6 service charge per ticket. To order, call the box office at 313-943-2354, go online at dearborntheater.com, or purchase tickets at the box office prior to the event.