Black Violin’s Kev Marcus on embracing stereotypes, meeting Obama, and why they might not pay a visit to the White House

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PHOTO BY COLIN BRENNAN
  • Photo by Colin Brennan


Six years ago, Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste, of Black Violin, found themselves eating shrimp cocktail with Alicia Keys, and discussing Django Unchained with Jamie Foxx and talking about chord progressions with Smokey Robinson. The occasion? The 57th presidential inaugural ball honoring President Barack Obama’s second term as the first Black president in the history of the United States.



“I remember most of the day really clearly,” Sylvester says. “As I’m walking up, Michelle leans in and says, ‘This is the man I was telling you about.’ So I tell [Obama] everything that I've ever done in my life has led up to this moment. And he chuckled and said, ‘The tough part is to figure out what to do next.’”

The truth is, the classically trained hip-hop violist and violinist are frequently in a state of figuring out their next move within the scope of their grand agenda: “To be well-intentioned in everything we do.” And topping a moment with the leader of the free world is harder than ever before.



The era-defining virtuosos will drop their third record, Take the Stairs, later this year — a follow-up to 2015’s Stereotypes, a record and title track that acted as a mirror to the obvious misconceptions surrounding two Black men wielding classical instruments.

“The reason I smile onstage is because I know I’ll completely pressure people’s perceptions of not only what a violin can do or what music can possibly sound lik