Bringing the classic boom

B lack Violin is coming to Dayton to jam with local youth at the Fraze. Violinist Kev Marcus with violist Wil B created a sound and experience that not only crosses genre’s, breaking stereotypes but shows how music can truly unite people. Black Violin began in high school, was nurtured in college and passed the […]

Black Violin jams with the Youth of Dayton

Black Violin is Wil B and Kev Marcus (l-r).

By Mike Ritchie

Black Violin is coming to Dayton to jam with local youth at the Fraze. Violinist Kev Marcus with violist Wil B created a sound and experience that not only crosses genre’s, breaking stereotypes but shows how music can truly unite people.

Black Violin began in high school, was nurtured in college and passed the ultimate test at the Apollo Theatre. “How can I do this and be different, successful and leave my mark,” Marcus says. “That was my goal ever since I was a kid.”

Rappers before them used classical music in their songs. “That’s how we came up with the idea,” Marcus says. “There was a song by Busta Rhymes called ‘Gimme Some More.’ It had this violin line he was rapping over.”  Marcus programmed the notes in his phone, copying the tune and angering the teacher but impressing his friends when it went off. Other classmates helped orchestrate the song. “That was a moment of genius for us.”

That’s the basis of Black Violin. “We take the energy and make it something grandma would love and the [kid] that listens to Drake and Kanye West,” Marcus explains. They want people to say, “I’ve never heard anything like this before. This was exactly what I needed in my life.”

In college Marcus was given a life-changing tape by his instructor. “It was violin playing I never heard before,” Marcus remembers. It had classical, jazz, and bluegrass with a soul that spoke to him. “That was the best part because I didn’t think the violin could sound that way.” Black Violin by Stuff Smith showed them what was possible.

Their career started at the legendary Showtime at the Apollo. “We went on and never lost during the 2005 season. We knew if that crowd didn’t boo us this could work.”

Winning the competition opened a door to meeting Alicia Keys. They contacted her management, met and performed for her. Days later a message came saying come back to New York and play with her. “This song called ‘Karma’ had this big violin part. We recorded it. They said perfect. Can you perform it on the Billboard Music Awards? She was so humble, cool and down to earth even though she’d sold 10-20 million records already.” 

By appearance, no one thinks they’re classical musicians. “No one expects it, that’s why it works.” They want to change people’s perceptions. 

They’re blessed, expressing their art in a truly genuine, organic, authentic way. “That’s my number one reason for playing the violin. Number two is because I shouldn’t be playing this instrument.”

This will be their third time playing Dayton. The first two shows were sold out. “Dayton’s a good fan base for us. We come on stage and it’s like bam, and you’re like whoa, I wasn’t expecting this.”

Expect change if you’ve seen them before. It’s like a rock concert with violins and not your grandmother’s classical music.

They’re playing with the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. “We’re excited about it. The best thing is, it’s at the Fraze. It’s so lively and energetic.”

Marcus thinks young classical students are taught to see their instruments through a particular lens. “We grew up in that lens, respect it, but shatter the norms,” he says. “Most haven’t played a concert where people are standing, clapping and dancing. We’re very careful how we’re perceived by younger musicians.”

They’ve taken their high school experiment around the world. “What can you do that the world has never seen? Think outside the box, do things that no one else thought you could,” Marcus challenges. “Break all stereotypes. That’s the message we preach.  It can be anything. Don’t do it the way everyone else does.” They want students to be creative and forward thinkers, going beyond what’s possible.

“We’ve reimagined how you’d hear music combining Mozart to Bruno Mars and everything in between,” Marcus describes. “If you love violin or popular music, you’re gonna love it.”

Marcus is the host, MC and violinist, with Baptiste on multi-instruments and vocals with a drummer and world-class scratch champion on turntable. 

They’ve played in 40 countries including the world’s fair in China, Germany and Dubai, with two shows in Iraq for the troops and a major tour with Linkin Park. There’s a Christmas album coming and their fourth album will be out early 2019. 

It’s a truly unifying experience. “It’s a meal, not a snack,” Marcus quips. “Something that entertains, educates, and inspires. We hope to send you home thinking about it and when you wake up, we’re still on your mind. We say we’re paid to travel and perform for free. Anyone that wants to witness something they’ve never seen before, we welcome you.”

Black Violin, accompanied by the Dayton Youth Philharmonic Youth Orchestra will perform on June 28 at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Boulevard. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for young adults 13-20, and $10 for 12 and under. Go to and for more information.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Ritchie at

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