Wilner Baptiste and Kevin Sylvester are out to prove that classical music doesn't have to be stuffy. At least, not when this violin and viola duet plays.
What might start as coaxing a Bach concerto from their instruments quickly morphs into something else when a hip-hop beat starts thumping alongside their lilting strings.
Far from the black tie and pearls you might see at a chamber orchestra, Baptiste's and Sylvester's baggy jeans and backward hats might surprise almost as much as how deftly they work their fiddles.
But make no mistake, both are classically trained.
Together, they form Black Violin.
Baptiste and Sylvester met as teenagers in South Florida, where they attended the same performing arts high school. After daily three-hour rehearsals learning the likes of Beethoven and Mozart, they would go home and listen to the hip-hop music they enjoyed.
"To put the two together was a way for us to keep our interest," Baptiste said.
After going to separate colleges, Sylvester and Baptiste reunited and began playing together seriously. They soon discovered that other people were interested in their genre-busting mashups.
People like Alicia Keys.
Black Violin performed with Keys at the 2005 Billboard Music Awards.
Then they went on tour with Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda on his rap side-project, Fort Minor. Shinoda's shows took Black Violin all over the world, from Malaysia to Taiwan to Australia.
From that exposure, Baptiste and Sylvester became the opening act for a number of other performers, as well as doing their own shows at theaters, universities and corporate events.
"With our show, it can be pretty much anything and we can pretty much perform anywhere," Baptiste said.
"What we do is very unique so it appeals to anyone."
Such as the president.
Black Violin performed at President Barack Obama's 2013 Inauguration Ball. The experience was "like a dream," Baptiste said, describing what it was like waiting to shake hands with the POTUS alongside Jamie Foxx and Smokey Robinson, who also performed that night.
After proving they could hold their own among such heavy hitters, Black Violin released its second CD this summer, titled "Classically Trained," which followed their 2007 self-titled debut.
The CD blends strong pop and R&B beats with classic pieces (Schostakovich is one of Baptiste's favorite composers), and even has elements of rock and bluegrass.
"I'm far beyond just hip-hop," Baptiste said. "Like, I'm listening to The Lumineers right now."
In other words, expect the unexpected from these guys.
The way they meld the rich sounds of the viola, the higher-pitched violin and contemporary beats from today would make anyone want to start learning a string instrument, in hope that they could one day be so cool.
That's not exactly the goal though, Baptiste said, offering up some advice he doles out to kids at school performances.
"The point of the show is not for them to pick up a violin, but for them to think outside the box," he said. "To pick something they're passionate about and take it further than anyone else.
"That's what we did."
Video: "Brandenburg" music video by Black Violin
Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.