Marcus and Baptiste play the violin and viola, respectively, and perform with the nontraditional backup of a drummer, keyboardist and turntable master. The duo met in high school, went to different colleges, and later reconnected to create the musical group Black Violin.
Their mingling of hip-hop and classical sensibilities gives them their distinctive style, and has generated wide attention, including a December interview with Jeffrey Brown on the PBS News Hour that re-aired in August.
Noting that the two met as "high school orchestra nerds," Brown said the accomplished performers are eager to change widely held ideas. As a 6-foot-2 black man who could be mistaken for a linebacker, Kev Marcus relishes the role of challenging musical stereotypes.
"I love it. I’m drawn to it. It's why I wake up in the morning," he said.
A Black Violin concert traverses a wide swath of the musical landscape from covers and the duo's own compositions, such as "Invisible," to an occasional Brandenburg Concerto. In addition to their busy touring schedule in the United States and Europe, they have partnered on projects and special appearances with popular artists from Aerosmith to Alicia Keys.
Black Violin's goals for the upcoming 20-city tour extend beyond broadening musical tastes. Given the divisive rhetoric that pervades many current national and regional conversations, the musicians deliberately chose the name "Unity Tour" for their fall and winter concerts.
"Through the message of Black Violin's music, we've spent the last 10 years working to encourage and empower people of all ages, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds to find what connects us, rather than shine a light on what divides us," the band said on its website, blackviolin.net. "We realize that every opportunity to connect our diverse fans is an opportunity to break down the barriers that separate us, empower individuality and encourage progress."
SUNY Oswego's Artswego Performing Arts and Ke-Nekt Chamber Music series jointly sponsor the concert, with support from the Student Association and the multicultural ALANA Student Leadership Conference. While on campus, the artists will conduct a master class with strings students and participate in a reception with the African, Latino, Asian and Native American Conference attendees.
Tickets to the Black Violin performance are $25 ($5 for all students), available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2141. Parking is included in the price of a ticket, and is available in the lot in front of Culkin Hall and the employee and commuter lots behind Hart and Funnelle residence halls.
For more information about this and other fine and performing arts programs at SUNY Oswego, visit www.oswego.edu/arts.