Saturday, April 1, 2023

The Black Violin Experience brings genre-bending performance to the Wharton Center

March 1, 2023
<p>Wil Baptiste and Kev Marcus of the Black Violin Experience, courtesy of Mark Clennon.</p>

Wil Baptiste and Kev Marcus of the Black Violin Experience, courtesy of Mark Clennon.

The Black Violin Experience does not offer an average classical music performance. The violinists fuse different genres of music together, particularly hip-hop and classical music to create music over different genres. They play with a keyboardist, drummer and a DJ to bring the experience to the audience. 

The duo, Kev Marcus and Will Baptiste, performed at the Wharton Center on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Baptiste and Marcus began playing together when they met at orchestra class at Fort Lauderdale High School.  After graduating, they wanted to join forces together to become music producers that incorporated classical music to their songs. 

“The idea was that we wanted to become the next major producers like Neptune or Timberland,” Baptiste said. “We wanted to incorporate classical music, which is something that we knew in a way that no one's ever done.”

Baptiste said people are drawn to the way that the group can play over popular music. 

“We started noticing how people were very drawn to the fact that we as violinists can play on top of popular music very effortlessly, people really were drawn by that,” Baptiste said. “And then it kind of gave us the idea of pursuing music as artists rather than focusing more on producing.”

The duo has received two Grammy nominations. Their album, "Take the Stairs" received a 2021 nomination for Best Contemporary Album and their song, "The Message" with Blind Boys of Alabama received a nomination for Best Americana Performance at this year's Grammys. 

Audience member Sarah Lettau expected a classical violin performance when she bought her tickets to The Black Violin Experience, but her expectations were exceeded, she said. 

“I didn't know anything about it before I went in just that they played a violin and that there was some singing so I was at first like expecting classical, which I was totally down with,” Lettau said. "When I went into this and I was surprised. It was really good and I was living for it. It was a lot of fun and they know how to kept the crowd going with the two like main guys Will and Kev definitely evened each other out with one with more stage presence with one with less – but then they switch towards the end.”

Audience member Devin Jones has wanted to see The Black Violin Experience since the fifth grade, he said. Six years later, this wish came true. 

In one part of the performance, the duo began improvising on stage. Jones said that was his favorite part of the show. 

The Black Violin Experience is continuing their national tour throughout March and April. The group often performs in urban communities, giving free performances to students while engaging with youth symphonies in various communities. As part of the TurnAround Arts program and an ongoing mentorship program, Marcus and Baptiste connect with hundreds of thousands of students at low-income and Title 1 schools. 

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