Chops and Hip-Hop With Black Violin

by Molly Gilmore for OLY ARTS

Contrary to the old saying, sometimes it’s Mother who knows best. Just ask Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester, violinist for Black Violin. Sylvester and violist Wilner “Wil B” Baptiste bring their mixture of classical chops and hip-hop beats to Olympia this Tuesday.

Sylvester took up violin in elementary school, and it was all his mom’s idea, though she never pushed him. “She never said, ‘Go practice,’” he said in a recent phone interview. “Every day we had orchestra, so I just kept playing. There wasn’t this sensational drive. It was more like I kept doing it, so I kept getting better.”

Sylvester and Baptiste met while attending Dillard High School of Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and began experimenting with adding beats to Bach and company while in college; and Black Violin—named for an album by African-American jazz violinist Stuff Smith—was born. The duo, playing in Olympia with a DJ and drummer, performed at former President Barack Obama’s 2013 inaugural ball, collaborated with Alicia Keys and Wyclef Jean and shared stages with Aerosmith and Kanye West. Black Violin’s latest album, 2015’s Stereotypes, debuted at number 1 on Billboard’s classical-crossover chart.

Though he and Baptiste worked hard to get where they are, Sylvester thinks fate was involved, too. “When I was touring with Linkin Park, Mike Shinoda once told me that to be at the level that they were at—just to make it as a musician, to be able to feed your family and sell records, just to be able to do that—among how many millions of talented people there are in this country is like hitting the lottery,” he said. “Yeah, I play really well, and Wil plays really well, but it is like hitting the lottery.”

What: Black Violin

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts,
512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 28

How much: $14-$50 (March 30 is pay-what-you-can)

Get tickets: 360-753-8586 | Washington Center

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