BLOOMINGTON — The musicians from the ensemble Black Violin understand the apprehension audiences may have before they begin to play.
“The violin doesn’t have a cool stigma,” said musician Wil Baptiste.
That is until you hear their unique pairing of hip-hop and the stringed instruments.
Black Violin, which consists of Baptiste on viola and Kev Marcus on violin, will be on stage Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.
“It’s a rock concert from a violinist view,” Baptiste said. “It is really loud and inspiring as well.”
During the concerts, Baptiste and Marcus are joined by a drummer and a DJ. The current tour has the four-piece ensemble traveling across the country promoting their upcoming album “Take the Stairs,” to be released Nov. 1.
The classically trained duo has been performing together for 16 years. They have also had success working with other artists, including Alicia Keys, Kanye West and Aerosmith. The symphonic sound offered unique elements to the already popular music. Baptiste said his band’s interest has a different focus.
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“It was great touring with other artists, but we always wanted to do our own music,” he said. “We are controlling our own destiny.”
Black Violin has created their own success along the way, allowing them to be choosy about what and when they will play. “If there is an opportunity to perform (with others) sometimes we may turn it down,” he said. “We are doing great things by inspiring others. And it brings people together.”
Neither Baptiste nor Marcus were interested in violins when they started out playing as children more than 20 years ago, but both ended up in a performing arts high school where they first met. “Hip-hop was always a favorite,” Baptiste said. “But being able to express yourself through the instrument, it is always something that was unique to us.”
As the years and experiences passed, the duo have remained motivated, interested and curious about their next creation. “We had to make it ours,” Baptiste said.
Another passion that remains a focus is helping young musicians. The reactions from children, both as members of the audience as well as fellow musicians, during a performance enlightens and encourages Baptiste and Marcus to stay motivational. Black Violin has performed numerous free concerts in urban communities and participated in hands-on music activities with youth symphonies and community centers. The duo estimates they have connected with more than 100,000 students throughout the year by teaming with local and national education programs such as Turnaround Arts and other mentorship programs.
“We don't take that lightly,” Baptiste said. “To inspire a child, I know how that feels.”