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Black Violin comes to Ravinia in Highland Park

GRAMMY-nominated, classical-meets-hip-hop duo Black Violin performs at the Pavilion at Ravinia in Highland Park on September 11.

Recently “CBS This Morning” profiled Black Violin’s career and work with schools during the pandemic. And a recent PBS Newshour featured them, as well. Their album “Take The Stairs” was nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental album at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards.

For more than 17 years, Black Violin members Kev Marcus and Wil Baptiste have been merging string arrangements with modern beats and vocals. The two met in orchestra class at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, becoming classically trained on the violin and viola through their high school and college careers.

Post-college, they reconvened to produce beats for South Florida rappers and began building an audience in local clubs. They later went on to win Showtime at the Apollo in 2005, and eventually sold out headline performances at venues across the country, including a sold-out, two-night headline run at The Kennedy Center in 2018. Their unique brand of merging the genre they were listening to (hip-hop) with the world they were studying (classical) was celebrated with collaborations with Alicia Keys, Wu-Tang Clan, 2 Chainz and others.

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MERCHANDISE FEATURED ON Black Violin’s website. The duo will perform at Ravinia in September.

Before the pandemic, Black Violin was touring extensively, playing more than 200 shows a year — many of these are performances for young, low-income students in urban communities, and in 2019 alone the group played for more than 100,000 students. These performances aim to challenge stereotypes and preconceived notions of what a “classical musician” looks and sounds like.

“The stereotypes are always there, embedded so deep in our culture,” says Wil. “Just by nature of our existence, we challenge those ideas. It’s a unique thing that brings people together who are not usually in the same room, and in the current climate, it’s good to bring people together.”

Often the duo will work alongside a youth orchestra in the market, bringing them on stage for a performance. For example, check out this EPK footage of the band working with a student orchestra at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford, Connecticut, by searching: [].

I remember years ago watching Regina Carter play jazz violin at a performance venue in Chicago. I was mesmerized. I’m sure that Black Violin will enthrall audiences just as much when they hit the Chicago area.

For info about Black Violin’s Ravinia appearance, visit [] and search for Black Violin.

To see videos of the above performances, visit [].

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Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is a nearly 30-year veteran journalist and the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago.

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