From Shostakovich to Jay-Z: Black Violin

Hip-hop meets classical at Edison March 15

Black Violin — a.k.a. Wilner “Wil B” Baptiste (viola) and Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester (violin) — come to Edison Theatre March 15 as part of the ovations for young people series.

Schubert borrowed from Beethoven. Public Enemy sampled Isaac Hayes. Ice Cube quoted Kool and the Gang while Brahms let drop with “Variations on a Theme from Haydn.”

Hip-hop and classical music: perhaps not as different as you think.

Old news to Wilner “Wil-B” Baptiste and Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester, a.k.a. Black Violin. Over the last decade, this classically trained duo has mixed and mashed hip-hop and classical traditions — as well as elements of funk, jazz, R&B and even bluegrass — to startling effect.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, March 15, Black Violin will bring its distinctive sound to Washington University in St. Louis. The special all-ages matinee is presented as part of the Edison ovations for young people series. Tickets are $12.

Black Violin. Download hires version.

Black Violin
As a student at the Dillard High School of Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Baptiste hoped to learn the saxophone but found himself mistakenly enrolled in the string program. There, he learned to play viola and met Sylvester, who had been playing violin since age 9.

Baptiste attended Florida State University while Sylvester went to Florida International. The pair kept in touch and after graduation performed for a time as a hip-hop duo. But they never forgot their classical roots. Inspired by the African-American jazz violinist Stuff Smith, who recorded with the likes of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, they took the name of Smith’s final album and, in 2004, began touring as Black Violin.

“We’re passionate about it because we realize how fortunate we were to grow up having access to that,” explained Baptiste. “It’s something in which we take a great deal of pride. We encourage kids to think creatively, to take what they love doing and try to come up with something no one has ever done before.

“And that doesn’t just apply to playing violin or even music, but whatever it is you decide to do,” he added. “Expand your mind … That’s the message we want to deliver.”

ovations for young people

Ovations for young people presents affordably priced, family-friendly matinee shows by nationally and internationally recognized performing artists. Following Black Violin, the series will continue April 12 with 500 Clown in “Trapped,” a bouncy yet surprisingly philosophical rumination on ensnarement and escape.

Tickets and sponsors

Black Violin begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 15. Tickets are $12.

Tickets are available at the Edison Box Office, located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, call 314-935-6543, email or visit

Edison programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors.