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This guide is designed to help you prepare your students for the Black Violin performance at the Lied Center. Tuesday, Feb. 8 –1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9 – 9:45 a.m. This guide includes About Black Violin


About the performers: Kev Marcus and Wil-B, along with their DJ, TK


Music activities


About hip-hop


Music terms/definitions


Post-performance activities





About Kev Marcus and Wil-B

About Black Violin The name Black Violin came from a famous Jazz violinist named Stuff Smith. After hearing his albums, Kev Marcus and Wil-B had a whole different perspective on violins and what they are capable of doing. Before Smith’s death, he had recorded his most soulful soul album, Black Violin. The guys decided to pay tribute to him by naming their group after him.

About the Music Black Violin’s music is not like any other kind of music that you have heard before. With its unique style and twist on different songs, it really brings a new sound to music. The ensemble mixes jazz, R&B and hip-hop. With the collaboration of an electric violin and an acoustic violin, this duo really makes some interesting music. Its goal is to give kids the same opportunities in music as they had; the members want to work with kid orchestras and music programs to show young people that there are many ways to express themselves through music.

Kev Marcus is 26-years-old. He was born in Florida and started playing the violin at the age of 9 with the encouragement from his mother and teachers. Kev grew to love the violin so much that he could hardly put it down. While in high school he participated in many local orchestras and played with different ensembles. He did all of this while attending Dillard High School for Performing Arts. Some of his musical influences are Bach, Brahms, Mozart and Nat King Cole. Then, of course, there are some influences from today’s era of music, artists such as Mos Def, Notorious BIG, Dr. Dre, The Roots, Naz and Jay-Z. Wil-B is also 26 years old, also born in Florida and, of course, a great violinist. However, his story is quite different; Wil-B unintentionally became a viola player. He tried to join his high school band, but instead got placed into the string program. Not only is Wil-B a master at the violin but he is also talented on a variety of other instruments including trumpet, drums and bass guitar. Wil-B also attended the Dillard High School of Performing Arts, where he met Kev and formed this talented duo. He also has some musical influences in his life; Chaka Khan, Talib Kweli, George Benson and Jill Scott.


Music Activities ➊ Break your students up into small groups and have them listen to a Black Violin song.

➋ When the song is over, have them write down the thoughts and ideas they had about the song.

➌ Finally, have them share their thoughts with the class.

Questions to consider: 1. When you hear the word “hip-hop” what do you think of? 2. When you think of hip-hop, what kind of instruments do you associate with it? 3. What is your favorite instrument? 4. Have you ever been to a concert? If so, what kind of concert was it? 5. Do you play a musical instrument? If not, what kind of instrument would you want to learn to play?

What is your hip-hop name? Have your students take the name of their favorite album and have them combine it with the street they live on. For example, take Jason Aldean’s album, My Kinda Party, and combine it with Louisiana: Party + Louisiana = Louisiana Party. You can flip the names if you want. Kansas Elements of Music as an Inquiry Standard 6, Benchmark 1


About hip-hop Hip-hop as narrative To most people, jazz, hip-hop, funk and classical are musical genres. But to the revolutionary music group Black Violin, they’re ingredients. Similar to the hip-hop icons it grew up listening to, Black Violin breaks all the rules, blending classical music with hip-hop to create something new. Combining an array of musical styles and influences to produce a signature sound that is not quite maestro, not quite emcee, this group of two classically trained violinists and a DJ, are redefining the music world. The ensemble’s influences range from Shostakovich to Bach and from Nas to Jay-Z. In this theme, your students will learn about the genre of hip-hop, which is a huge inspiration for Black Violin’s music and style. Hip-hop’s roots Hip-hop is an art form that originated in the Bronx in the mid 1970s as a means of self-expression. At block parties community members would rhyme over looped beats or tracks on a turntable. The rhymes emphasized the thoughts or feelings of the performers. The culture of hip-hop was expressed through multiple art forms like dance, music and graffiti art. The Sugar Hill Gang released the first ever commercial rap recording in 1979, Rapper’s Delight. Until this time, hip-hop was never recorded or sold commercially. From this point on, hip-hop’s focus began to shift. Instead of a community based culture, the music could now reach out beyond the Bronx where it began. Because of this change, and as hip-hop culture developed, the lyrics became less community focused and the songs changed from poetry to story-telling.








fine tuners




tail piece

chin rest

four strings

tuning pegs waist


Music terms/definitions beatboxing - a form of vocal percussion which primarily involves the art of producing drum beats, rhythm and musical sounds using one’s mouth, lips, tongue and voice. blues - a musical form created primarily within the African-American communities in the Deep South of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, narrative ballads, shouts and chants. The genre is characterized by specific chord progressions—most commonly a 12-bar progression. composer - a person who writes music. counterpoint - two or more melodic lines combined to create a harmonic relationship while retaining their individual sound. DJ-ing - cutting or looping samples to recreate music using turntables and a variety of techniques: pausing, scratching, back-spinning, speeding up or slowing down and/or delaying the music. fugue - a composition tool in which one instrument plays a short melody, then another instrument echoes the piece, then another echoes and so on so that all parts interweave with each other. hip-hop music - a musical genre that began in the South Bronx of New York City in the 1970s. The genre is defined by four central stylistic elements: rapping, DJ-ing, sampling and beatboxing. jazz - a musical art form characterized by blue notes, syncopation, swing, call and response, polyrhythms and improvisation. Originating in African- American communities in the early 20th century, jazz has been called “the first original art form” to develop in the United States of America. looping (in music) - continuously repeating a small section of sound. musical score - the written form of a musical composition. Romani - a musical tradition (often called gypsy music) associated with soulful vocals, violin accompaniment and characterized by changes in tempo and slides in pitch. string instruments - comprising more than half of the orchestra, these musical instruments are named after the strings–made of gut, nylon or steel—that produce their sound. Except for the harp, all string instruments look similar and have hollow wooden bodies that are played by drawing a horsehair bow across strings of differing size and tension. Both the viola and violin are stringed instruments. A viola is slightly larger than a violin, tuned a fifth lower and has a deeper tone. theme - a melody around which a musical composition is based.


Post-performance activities Prepare students to talk or write about Black Violin’s performance by working with the class to find words that evoke music, sound and the experience of listening. How do students describe the different kinds of music that they know—beyond naming artists or genres? How can a written paragraph conjure up the concert experience for a reader who was not there? What kinds of language work best to re-create sound?

Black Violin combines musical traditions that reflect Kev Marcus and Wil-B’s varied musical experiences growing up. Ask students to reflect on the variety of music in their own lives and the mixture of traditions to which they are exposed. What music do they choose to listen to? What do they hear at home or in the homes of relatives? Do they attend religious services or parties where there is music? What kind of artistic expression might their personal musical heritage yield?

Wil-B plays the acoustic viola and Kev Marcus plays the electric violin. Did students notice the difference between the two instruments? Can they describe the distinctive tone of each? What is the history of the electrification of instruments in music? When did it happen, and how did listeners react? Ask students to identify songs or compositions they know that use either electric or acoustic instruments.


Online resources This one from Ithaca College is a GREAT resource for info for teachers regarding hip-hop:


Black Violin Teachers Guide  

Kev Marcus and Wil B are Black Violin; two classically trained musicians who, along with their DJ TK, have created the ultimate synergy betw...

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