Black Violin will kick off Give Thanks Tour at Union County Performing Arts Center

black violin interview

Wil B, left, and Kev Marcus of Black Violin; the group will perform in Rahway, Nov. 10.

Black Violin, which released a holiday album titled Give Thanks in 2020, will start its second annual holiday-season Give Thanks Tour at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, Nov. 10.

“It’s holiday tour but we’re definitely gonna play other songs that we would normally play on other tours; not every song will be holiday-driven,” says violist Wil B (Wilner Baptiste), who leads the group with violinist Kev Marcus (Kevin Marcus Sylvester). Both are classically trained, though their music combines influences from hip-hop, R&B and other forms of music, in addition to classical. On tour, they are joined by drummer Nat Stokes, keyboardist Liston Gregory III and DJ SPS.

The group, formed in Fort Lauderdale in 2004, has maintained a busy touring schedule for most of its history, though that had to stop, of course, during the early part of the pandemic.

“We did a tour early this year, and definitely the crowd didn’t come out as heavy as they normally do, but it was close,” says Wil B. “I think one of the differences in the crowd early this year was just the eagerness to finally be able to come out. And there were different places, different states, that still had restrictions, so that definitely prohibited a lot of people from even coming out, because you had to show your vaccination card, or show that you took a test.


Wil B of Black Violin.

“I think for the most part, everything is back to normal. It’s never gonna be 100 percent, though. I think COVID is here to stay.”

Wil B and Kev Marcus have known each other since high school, when they first started playing their instruments. Wil B became a viola player, he says, “because everyone was ignoring the viola. I was like, ‘I’m not gonna play this thing for long, so I guess I’ll try it out.’ But I’m going on almost 28 years playing it.”

He came to the instrument almost by accident.

“I used to be that kid that was beating on the table while the other kids were rapping, and the (high school) security guard used to get really upset at me for doing that,” he says. “He told me a cool story about how he used to play sax on the weekends and make money. And that really triggered me. I was like, ‘Oh man, I can make money playing sax. Cool.’

“I went to the band teacher, really excited about playing, and the string teacher’s in the same room. And the band teacher told me, ‘All right, go ahead and sign up for the summer program.’ I signed up, and I guess the string teacher saw my enthusiasm and he wanted me in his class. So they both looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s play golf. Whoever wins the golf game gets this kid in their class.’ The band teacher lost, and I was forced into strings.

“I got into the class, and there was nothing but string instruments and I was there for two weeks. I had no choice, so I took advantage of it, picked the viola and, 28 years later, I’m still playing it.”


Kev Marcus of Black Violin.

Gregory is a recent addition to the group’s touring lineup, starting in late 2021 with the first Give Thanks Tour. Having a keyboard player, Wil B says, helps the band fill out its sound, onstage.

“Especially when it comes to the Christmas stuff, I’m doing a lot of singing,” he says. “I used to play the piano at times, but having a designated keyboard player definitely frees me up to do a lot more different things, and having him just really elevates the sound overall, so we can experiment. It just adds a different dynamic.”

Before the Give Thanks album, the band’s last release was Take the Stairs, in 2019, which was nominated for a Grammy in the Contemporary Instrumental Album category. Wil B says there are currently no plans for another studio album.

“We’re going to continue working on music and stuff, but as far as an album … we’re just not sure,” he says. “We’re just going to see how everything goes.”

Black Violin performs at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. Visit

For more on the group, visit

Here is the video for “Impossible Is Possible,” from the “Take the Stairs” album:


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