This past Sunday, I attended the inaugural Dreamer Arts Festival at the Miramar Regional Park Amphitheater. The event was presented by the Black Violin Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering youth by providing access to quality music programs in their community. The foundation was launched in 2019 by hip-hop/classical crossover duo (and two-time Grammy nominated artist) Black Violin.
Black Violin is comprised of two classically trained string instrumentalists, Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste, who go by the stage names Kev Marcus and Wil B. The group name “Black Violin” is derived from the album of the same name by jazz violinist, Stuff Smith. Sylvester and Baptiste first 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. Baptiste originally wanted to play saxophone but learned the viola as it was the only instrument available in class. Sylvester was taken to Saturday morning violin classes by his mother to keep him out of trouble.
After college, Sylvester and Baptiste developed an act covering hip-hop songs on their violins and two years after sending in a tape to Showtime at the Apollo, they were invited to appear on the show — which they won, clinching the Showtime at the Apollo 2005 Legend title. An invitation to perform with Alicia Keys at the Billboard Awards followed and soon they were touring with Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and opening for the Wu-Tang Clan.
Black Violin continued touring while also releasing two independent, self-financed albums before releasing the acclaimed “Stereotypes” in 2015. In February of this year, the duo embarked on “The Black Violin Experience Tour” across the US. The tour followed their recent Grammy nomination for “The Message,” a collaboration with Blind Boys of Alabama. It was the duo’s second Grammy nomination after their 2019 album “Take The Stairs” was nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.
Black Violin plays roughly 200 shows a year; many of which are performances for young, low-income students in urban communities. The group has played for hundreds of thousands of students with the goal of challenging 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 aren’t usually in the same room, and in the current climate, it’s good to bring people together.”
The Black Violin Foundation’s inaugural program provided scholarships of up to $2,500 to youth ages 13 – 20 years old who plan to continue their musical education through a program of their choice that fosters musical creativity and innovation. Scholarships are awarded bi-annualy to up to 20 applicants per scholarship cycle. Black Violin Foundation is co-directed by Anne Sylvester, wife of Kev Marcus, and Corryn Freeman, wife of Wil Baptiste.
My decision to attend the event was originally just an opportunity to continue to familiarize myself with my new Sony a7RV (and get me and my new ladyfriend out of the house on a breezy Sunday afternoon) but we ended up staying to the very end, enjoying the performances by Dillard High School all the way to the event headliners, Black Violin. Oh, and the event was free with RSVP via Eventbrite (plus a $10 parking fee at the Amphitheater).
I used primarily my Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD lens (which doesn’t get out to play as much as my other lenses do) and the Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 lens for a handful of shots. Enjoy the photographs…
Located in Fort Lauderdale, the DCA Orchestra, led by conductor Juan Sebastian Fernandez, has consistently earned Superior Ratings at FOA Music Performance Assessments and boasts numerous students earning Honor Orchestra honors at both the district and state level. Fernandez first became interested in orchestral conduction while a student at Dillard High School.
The crowd? They were diggin’ it.
Moving the program along were radio personality Stichiz and Alexis Frazier, WPLG Local 10 Traffic Reporter/Anchor
Formed in 2010, Sons of Mystro is the violin duo of brothers Malcolm and Umoja. This violin duo plays over ten different genres of popular music, combining their original compositions and imaginative covers into their live performances.
Led by their Emmy nominated, singer/songwriter, Alexander Star and the Golden People is an R&B, Hip Hop and Reggae outfit that perform original songs as well as covers.
Black Violin Foundation co-directors Corryn Freeman, wife of Wil Baptiste and Anne Sylvester, wife of Kev Marcus
Miramar’s Mayor Wayne M. Messam and his wife Angela address the crowd and introduce Black Violin…
Black Violin closed out the show in grand fashion, even inviting the DCA Orchestra to join them on stage for a rousing final number. It’s not often you get to see a two-time Grammy nominated artist (plus a few other quality acts) for just a $10 parking fee. Was I patting myself on the back just a bit for a decision well made? Yeah, just a bit.
Leave a Reply