The classically trained viola/violin duo of Wil B. and Kev Marcus return to the DMV, inviting us to take a ride with them on a musical journey that will include a modern blend of classical, hip-hop, rock and R&B sounds. They’ll perform with the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra at the Strathmore, April 9 and 10.
The celebrated musicians tour the world with over 200 shows a year, collaborating with such superstars as Wu-Tang Clan, Wyclef Jean, Alicia Keys, P. Diddy, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin and The Eagles.
But with the duo connecting with and performing for over 100,000 students each year, it’s obvious that the Florida natives hold education outreach with youth as one of their primary and ongoing goals.
Kev Marcus spoke more about what’s new with Black Violin.
Washington Informer: As two Black men who play violin, I’m sure you and Wil B. have been teased and ribbed a lot. How do you address stereotypes that keep others from going after their dream?
Kev Marcus: We never really set ourselves up to defeat stereotypes. But we believe that when you’re told that you’re too young, or you’re a girl, things like that, we say run toward it — don’t run away from it.
Two Black dudes playing violin — that’s our stereotype that we’re fighting. There will always be other kinds of stereotypes that will need to be broken and we want to shed light on that. Sometimes, breaking those stereotypes is something worth going after because no one else has done so before. For us, Black and classically trained, we threw the hip-hop element in, too — not so much, however, that our classical roots come in question.
Washington Informer: In your visits to youth across the U.S., what changes are you seeing in arts education?
Kev Marcus: STEAM education in Montgomery County is on a far higher level than in many other parts of the nation. Arts are so important. But ironically, even at the schools where Wil and I received our formative training back in Florida, while they provide classical training, they no longer offer a violin program. They’re still performing arts schools and have band and choir but offer less in terms of classical music training. We just hope our work will help inspire youth — we want to do all we can to push artistic people. And it doesn’t have to be on the violin or even in music. We want youth to have alternatives — options other than mathematics, English or sports. It’s so important to give young people as many opportunities as possible to find themselves. Not everyone is a good reader, an A student. Some have other talents that don’t get enough encouragement. We’ve been involved with talent competitions and performances and have seen some amazingly talented young people.
Washington Informer: What’s on your wish list — your bucket list?
Kev Marcus: I would love to work with Stevie Wonder. The true bucket list guy. Also, we’ve never played Carnegie Hall — not yet … but one day! It’s funny, I was in a barber shop the other day talking to a woman and she asked me about being nervous when I perform. I don’t get nervous anymore. After we were invited to perform for President Obama’s inauguration, I felt like we’d been to the mountain top. Nothing else since then has compared. What an honor and an experience.
Washington Informer: With your feet in both the classical world and the hip-hop world, where have you been earnestly embraced?
Kev Marcus: When we came along, no one was doing what we wanted to do. We wanted to blend the genres without disrespecting either side. But no question, the biggest pushback comes from the classical side today. Some orchestras we play with, they’d put earplug in their ears. Some will say the pop stuff is beneath them. That’s unfortunate. But it hasn’t stopped us. But with the hip-hop world, they always give us much love. We try to prove them wrong but some things and some people never change.
Black Violin will release a yet untitled CD later this year — three of those songs will be performed during their shows next week. On Tuesday, April 2, the duo returned to the Apollo where they got their big break — winning three of their appearances during the 2004-2005 season and then returning to be crowned as the season winner.
For more about them, visit blackviolin.net.