Behind The ScenesTennis

String music: ESPN’s US Open tennis promos feature duo Black Violin

The US Open, which ESPN will provide exclusive live coverage of beginning Aug. 28, always has been considered the “edgiest” of the four tennis majors.

This year, ESPN tapped a duo that takes an unconventional approach to a more traditional genre to provide the soundtrack for the event. Black Violin, composed of classically trained musicians Wil B. (viola) and Kev Marcus (violin), combines classical and hip-hop influences to create a distinctive multi-genre sound. ESPN began running promos (see one below) featuring the duo this week and Front Row sat with Marcus to ask him about it.

You put a modern and edgy twist on classical music. How have you forged your own path?
We grew up listening to hip-hop, R&B, and reggae music at home while studying classical music at school. For us, it has always felt very natural to blend the old with the new and people in the traditionally classical world along with the current hip-hop/pop generation seem to really appreciate our respect for both genres. With anything new, it’s tough to convince people that something they’ve never heard of before is “cool” so we try to change the world one stage at a time.

You performed during ESPN’s telecast of the 2016 Heisman Trophy Presentation. What was that like to be in front of all of those football legends?
It was truly a dream come true. We are both huge football fans, and we got a chance to hang with greats like Marcus Allen, Tim Brown, and [ESPN college football analyst] Desmond Howard. . . and even got a picture with [SEC Network college football analyst] Tim Tebow. It was an unforgettable experience. But the best part is that we are the house band for the Heisman Ceremony again this year and get to do it all over again.

Erin Thornton, Director, ESPN Sports Marketing, on Black Violin

“We wanted to showcase the uniqueness of the US Open. Black Violin gives us just the vibe we were looking for…refined with a toughness that makes you want to take a closer look.”

You’ve also played with and alongside musicians like Alicia Keys and the Wu Tang Clan and have worked with everyone from Kanye West to Tom Petty. What do you consider your big break?
Our big break was being crowned Apollo Legends on the NBC Talent competition “Showtime at the Apollo” in 2005. That opened the door. Eight years later, we were honored to perform at President Obama’s Inauguration in 2013 – that can also be considered a “big break.” It was a highlight of our lives and careers, and we will never forget that day.

You just announced dates for your Classical Boom Tour. What can people expect when they come to the shows?
Our new tour will give audiences a once-in-a-lifetime experience that the entire family can enjoy. We will present popular music from a violin’s perspective with an underlying theme of inclusivity, unity, and individuality. It’s a show that will make you dance, make you smile, and make you think.

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