Elaina Stuppler meets Black Violin
This article was written by Elaina Stuppler.
If you are looking to spend your night listening to amazing and innovative music, come see the two-time, Grammy-Nominated duo, Black Violin! They will be performing at the Keller Auditorium on March 26th.
The group consists of viola player, Wil B and violin player, Kev Marcus who met as students at the famed Dillard High School of Performing Arts, in Ft Lauderdale. The two received full music scholarships for college.
They are both classically trained musicians, but have defied all traditional stereotypes, creating their own musical language that has uplifted and inspired music fans of all ages. Kev Marcus describes their music as a “blend of classical and hip hop with R&B, Funk, Jazz, a little bit of country, and a little bit of everything mixed in between.”
He continues by saying, “at its core, we are classical musicians trying to fuse the violin and classical music with all other genres.”
Kev Marcus illustrates their performances as, “genre busting, inspirational, feel good kind of concert and it’s for everyone: Young, old, black, white, purple, green, it doesn’t matter…It’s the kind of music to feed your soul.”
The accomplished duo have played in concerts all over the world from Dayton, Ohio to Dubai! They performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, US Open, at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and at Showtime at the Apollo where they won first place! The group has also headlined their own Broadway show at the Palace Theater.
Wil B and Kev Marcus have worked with Aretha Franklin, P Diddy, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys and The Eagles, to name a few. Black Violin has performed for dignitaries and they were invited to play at one of the inaugural balls for President Obama.
Their videos have over 20 million combined views and they created the Black Violin Foundation where they give back to community centers and low income schools with free performances for over 100,000 students each year in the United States and Europe.
Their name “Black Violin” was sparked on Kev Marcus’ first day of College at Florida International University. When his Professor, Chauncey Patterson handed him an audio tape of violinist Stuff Smith’s, Black Violin album, it was a groundbreaking moment for him as it was the first time he heard “a violin that had some soul to it”. Kev Marcus describes Stuff Smith’s music as “not quite classical and not like the jazz [he] had heard.” It was different, having “a pulse and energy to it.”
Kev Marcus, “fell in love with the music” and shared it with Will B where they decided to name their group after Smith’s album, Black Violin. Marcus said it “changed their perception of what the violin could sound like” and their “perception of what is possible.” He added, “we thought it was a fitting name, bold and it’s like the legend lives on.”
Not only are they groundbreaking musicians, but they have also created a magnanimous foundation which can be viewed at blackviolinfoundation.org
They have developed a grant program where they are essentially, “connecting dots.” Kev Marcus describes that, “there are a lot of young musicians out there that need private lessons or they may need an instrument to get that instrument above the student level. They may need a flight to Juilliard to audition. Maybe, they may need to go to a summer camp or a laptop to make beats.”
He reflected how helpful his teacher, James Miles was in his musical journey. Kev fondly remembered him as caring and supportive. James Miles went “above and beyond”, so they decided to name their grant honoring him, calling it the James Miles Musical Innovation Grant for Continuing Education. The grant supports student musicians “that need anything and they are accepting donations.”
The foundation also does “a lot of diversity, equity, and inclusion because only about four percent of the string players in the US are black or brown. We find that number to be low and want to help anyway we can. So, we have different programs that we are instituting in different locations trying to get more kids to get into string playing.”
Black Violin also does instrument drives. Kev Marcus explains, “if we can put thirty instruments in an elementary school, we can ask the school board to place a teacher there to guarantee their job for five years.”
When I asked Kev Marcus about why he loved the violin so much, he responded that the reason is “that nobody expects me to play it. It’s my favorite thing because people think you are saying you are a rocket scientist or brain surgeon.”
He added, “there is an elitist mentality to a violin player or someone that can play the instrument. It changes the narrative of who I am just by telling you that I play it. The fact that I am a big black guy so no one expects me to play the violin. And the way I play it, it’s like changing someone’s perception in real time. It’s like a superpower to me.”
If you want to hear some truly unique music, come to Black Violin’s concert on March 26th at 7:30pm at the Keller Auditorium. Kev Marcus mentions, “we love coming to Portland because Portland was always an early supporter.”
Find out more information about Black Violin at: https://blackviolin.net/
Elaina Rae Stuppler is an award-winning composer and singer. She attended Crossroads School for the Arts in Santa Monica, California where she studied vocal arts, composing, trombone, violin, and recently received the U.S. President’s Education Award.
The Oregon Symphony named Elaina as their first Luna Composition Lab recipient where her piece, Anxious Alignment, had its world premiere at their 125th Gala Anniversary. The Portland Youth Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony have also commissioned pieces by her. Elaina is a member of the Young Composers Project and will have her orchestral composition debuted in 2023.