News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 1, 2012

Black Violin blends classical, modern styles in performance

Terre Haute’s Crossroads of America Youth Orchestra to share stage with group


Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — If you go

What: Black Violin (with a special performance by the Crossroads of America Youth Orchestra)

When: 7 p.m. March 11

Where: Hatfield Hall Theater, Rose-Hulman

Tickets: $15 for adults and $10 for youths and college students; Call (812) 877-8544 or visit the Hatfield Hall ticket office.

To most people, jazz, hip-hop, funk and classical are musical genres. But to the revolutionary music group Black Violin, they’re nothing but ingredients.

Combining a daunting array of musical styles and influences to produce a signature sound that is not quite maestro, not quite emcee, this group of two classically trained violinists and their DJ is redefining the music world — one string at a time. With influences ranging from Shostakovich and Bach to Nas and Jay-Z, Black Violin breaks all the rules, blending the classical with the modern to create a rare sound that nobody has ever heard, but that everybody wants to feel.

Black Violin will bring its unusual show and sounds to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Hatfield Hall Theater at 7 p.m. March 11. This special Family Discovery Series concert will also feature a performance by Terre Haute’s Crossroads of America Youth Orchestra. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for youths/students. Tickets are available by calling (812) 877-8544 or visiting the Hatfield Hall ticket office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, after March 5.

When the members of Black Violin first learned to play their signature instruments — Wil B, the viola, at 14 years old and Kev Marcus, the violin, at the tender age of 9 — neither could have foreseen that it would become their livelihood, though it was already becoming their passion. The two Florida natives first met while attending the Dillard High School of Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, a school whose exceptional music programs served to nurture their already budding talents.

However, it wasn’t until the two were exposed to the work of legendary violinist Stuff Smith that the seeds that would become Black Violin were planted. Smith was one of the preeminent jazz violinists of the swing era. His final album and most soulful, titled “Black Violin,” so inspired and influenced Kev and Wil that they would eventually name their band in Smith’s honor.

After graduating from high school, Wil and Kev were granted music scholarships to college, Florida State and Florida International University respectively. At FIU, Kev encountered the group’s future manager, Sam G, with whom he and Wil soon formed a production company: DKNEX. Now they had a platform for their dream, and the talent and inspiration to back it up.

Black Violin had been born.

The group wasted little time in making a name for itself, starting with the rigorous touring that would become its’ trademark. In 2004, Black Violin joined superstar Alicia Keys on stage at the Billboard Music Awards, delivering a performance that made music enthusiasts take notice. Not long after, in 2005, the group was awarded the coveted title of Apollo Legend by the esteemed Apollo Theatre in Harlem. This confirmed what many were beginning to suspect — Black Violin was on its way to the top. Today, Wil and Kev regularly open for hip hop mainstays like Fat Joe, Akon, and the Wu-Tang Clan in locations as diverse as Prague, Dubai and South Africa.

Beyond all the glitz and glamour, the members of Black Violin want to share their love of music with children. With school music programs being cut throughout the country, the duo is concerned that youth will not have the benefit of music as a positive alternative to other, more destructive pursuits. With this in mind, they have embarked upon a campaign of social change — sharing the stage with youth orchestras, like Terre Haute’s Crossroads of America Youth Orchestra — to show children and teens that they are capable of expressing themselves in ways they have never dreamed.

CAYO was formed in 1961 by the Terre Haute City Council to provide youth in grades 6-12 the opportunity to perform classical music in an orchestra setting. The orchestra is currently under the direction of Indiana State University Director of Bands Roby George.

In an age where music is coming to be more and more defined by the labels given to it, Black Violin shows that music does not exist within a box, but rather exists in a space as open and unrestrained as the minds that produce it.