Three Capital Region performing arts centers partner to donate virtual concert to schools

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SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Three area performing arts venues have come together to provide a free virtual ‘field trip’ for local students. The School of the Performing Arts at Proctors Collaborative, Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Troy Savings Bank Music Hall are bringing Black Violin into classrooms of all grade levels. Through this virtual field trip, students may experience artists who fuse traditional and contemporary genres while upending perceptions of what it means to be a classical musician.  

Black Violin is led by classically trained string players Wil Baptiste (viola) and Kev Marcus (violin) and accompanied by DJ SPS and drummer Nat Stokes. The group uses their unique blend of classical and hip-hop music, often described as “classical boom,” to overcome stereotypes and encourage people of all ages, races and economic backgrounds to join together to break down cultural barriers.

“Teachers have been given the enormous and challenging task of teaching their students in person and, or virtually at the ready,” says Christine Sheehan, Director of Education at Proctors Collaborative. “Arts education has suffered during the pandemic. Tens of thousands of students would have visited any one of our venues for educational programming during this school year. Opportunities such Black Violin can straddle the disconnect of social distancing, support wellness and foster creative development and critical thinking.” 

For 16 years, Black Violin members Marcus and Baptiste have merged string arrangements with modern beats and vocals. The two met in orchestra class at Dillard High School in Ft. Lauderdale, becoming classically trained on the violin and viola through their high school and college careers. Post-college, they reconvened to produce beats for South Florida rappers, and began building an audience in local clubs.

Many of the group’s over 200 performances annually are for low-income students in urban communities. They aim to challenge 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 Baptiste. “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.”  

Capital Region teachers who register starting Jan. 5 may stream Black Violin’s Impossible Tour from Feb. 22 through April 2. Educators who register will receive a study guide and a unique link and access code prior to the event going live.

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