The stage is set with a DJ record table, lights, and the audience in anticipation. The performers take the stage with their violins. They do not wait for cues from their conductor – they feed off of the roaring audience.
From performances with Alicia Keys, Fort Minor, Akon, P. Diddy, Kanye West, Fifty Cent, Aerosmith, Tom Petty, Aretha Franklin, the Eagles, and more, these performers have developed a diverse musical background.
The men behind the strings are none other than Wil B and Kev Marcus, also known as Black Violin.
Performing Monday evening in the University Union MPR, Wil B and Marcus hit the stage with some original arrangements as well as mash-ups of popular favorites including “Sky Full of Lighters” by Bruno Mars, “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5, “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida, “We Found Love” by Rihanna, and many more.
“This is a party!” Marcus said after their opening number. “Flash photography is encouraged,” he said while encouraging the audience to get up out of their seats and dance around.
Black Violin continued on as DJ TK spun the tracks for the remainder of the evening.
After a few songs, Wil B said to the audience, “I want to introduce you all to my woman.” He pulled out his bow across the strings of his viola, producing a high-pitched tune.
“Isn’t she beautiful,” Wil B said to the crowd. “She has no hair, but four strings though. Her name is Tiffany.”
Wil B and Marcus explained why they chose instruments such as the violin and viola to create their sound and perform the style of music they do today.
“The violin imitates the human voice more than any other instrument,” Marcus said. “And I can’t sing, so that really helps me.”
Wil B said the reason he chose to play the viola is the inspiration he gained from when he was a boy.
“When I was younger, I was registered to play the saxophone in a recital,” he said. “I was put in the wrong class, though.”
It was soon after this occurrence that Wil B learned to play the viola.
“It worked out for the best,” he said. “I am more than okay with where the viola has taken me.”
Marcus said his mother got him started with the violin at the age of nine. Wil B took up the viola at the age of eleven. The two are both classically trained.
“We thought, what a great name for an album,” Marcus said. “Our album, ‘Classically Trained,’ comes out this summer.”
Marcus said fans should expect to see a lot of new collaborations and a taste of what was played Monday night on their new album.
In 2005, the group was awarded the Apollo Legend award from the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.
“Shortly after that, we met Alicia Keys and we got to work and perform with her,” Marcus said. “She later introduced us to Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park who was working on Fort Minor and we worked with them for two years.”
Wil B and Marcus said some of their musical inspirations were modern as well as legendary, and influenced them greatly in their music.
“I like anything from Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms to Jay-Z,” Marcus said. “With our music, we’re just really trying to bridge the gap.”
Wil B and Marcus said that picking up a string instrument and beginning to learn how to play it can be a challenge, but worth it in the end.
“We really want to showcase pop from a classical perspective,” Wil B said.
Black Violin also advocates supporting the arts in schools. Their mission is to encourage fine arts funding in schools nationwide with their performances, as well as the message they send to youth.
“This has been our third year at Slippery Rock,” Marcus said, “We love performing for you guys. You’re a great audience. We hope we can bring something new for you each time and we really appreciate your support and encouragement.”
Wil B said audience support really helps artists strive in their performance and with turning out new works to their loyal fans.
“Whatever energy we get from you guys, we’re going to send it right back,” he said. “We encourage you all, if you know the words, [to] sing along with us. Please!”
Wil B and Marcus spent the evening getting the audience involved in the music being performed before them.
“This is a YouTube moment,” Marcus said while Wil B turned Tiffany – his viola – on her side and strummed her like a small Latin guitar.
“We’re always looking for new ways to push the envelope,” Wil B said.