TROY -- Black Violin is in the business of breaking stereotypes and mixing genres. They’re bringing their sound and their message to Troy Music Hall on April 20.
Kev Sylvester and Wil Baptiste, the duo that makes up Black Violin, have played at President Obama’s inauguration, several Superbowls, SXSW and Broadway.
They’ve come a long way since they started playing together in high school.
“We were stand partners. . . I was first chair, Kev was second, although he would dispute that,” Baptiste said in an interview with The Gazette.
Sylvester, who goes by the stage name Kev Marcus, was forced into classical music by his mother after stealing candy from a local store.
Baptiste -- whose stage name is Wil B-.- always wanted to be a musician.
The two would leave the orchestra room and listen to hip hop in between classes. According to Baptiste, hip hop was their first music love but classical was a close second.
They went to different colleges in Florida, but they stayed in touch and kept playing together. After they graduated they began to write and mix pieces together.
“We wanted to be the next . . . Timbaland,” Baptiste said.
They played at every local venue they could get into and even getting in was tough at first.
“It was a hard sell trying to convince people to listen. . . . We never really let that deter us,” Baptiste said.
But they started gaining traction and recognition in the early 2000s.
“We would notice as we would perform with local artists . . . how the crowd responded to us in a way that we’d never seen before,” Baptiste said.
In 2004, they went to compete at the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night.
“Apollo is the toughest crowd in the world. If they don’t like you, they boo you off stage and they have fun doing it. So we went there, never lost and that was kinda like the beginning,” Baptiste said. They went back again in 2005 and were applauded again. The show opened a lot of doors for them and gave the duo the sense that they were onto something bigger.
In 2009 the duo had their own show on Broadway and in 2013 they played at Barack Obama’s inauguration.
For the past dozen years, they’ve been on tour, playing over 150 shows per year. In between performances, they spend as much time with their families as they can and work on their studio albums.
Their latest, which came out in 2015, tackles some of the issues of stereotypes.
“ . . . We’re walking stereotypes. Kev and I don’t necessarily look like typical violinists,” Baptiste said.
As is true to Black Violin style, the album mixes hip-hop, rap and classical melodies and most songs have an encouraging message about breaking away from the typical or the expected.
The duo also takes their music and their message into schools while they’re touring.
While they’re in Troy, they’ll be working with students before the concert and delivering a message on their inspiration as artists and on some of the challenges they’ve gone through in their careers.
“We thought it was appropriate to speak on what was going on. . . If you come to a Black Violin show, there’s all types of people . . .,” Baptiste said.
Hence the tour’s name: The Unity Tour.
For their upcoming show in Troy, they’ll be performing songs off that album and others, with a freestyle section mixed in. It's a 15 to 20 minute span where Baptiste and Sylvester create a sound completely unique for the performance, by playing off of each other.
Playing in unchartered format may sound nerve wrecking, but it's Baptiste's favorite part of the set list.
“True artists are fearless, “ Baptiste said.
7:30 p.m. on Thu. April 20
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 30 Second Street, Troy
For more information visit http://www.troymusichall.org
3 p.m. on Thu. April 20
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
Black Violin will be discussing their music, inspiration and challenges as artists.
Free and open to the public, however, attendees must call to make reservations in advance.
Call 518-273-0038 for reservations.