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May 21, 2019

Life On The Move ›  


Can Music Destroy Stereotypes?

We interviewed Wil Baptiste from Black Violin to discover how he lives Life On The Move.

The term “classically-trained violinist” tends to conjure images of powdered wigs and silk concert dresses — not two big black men. However, that’s exactly who Wilner Baptiste and Kevin Sylvester, the musicians of Black Violin, are.

Both Wil and Kev studied music at universities, know the ins-and-outs of music theory, and are well-versed in the ways of classical composers like Bach. But these facts don’t erase the perceptions people have about Wil and Kev when they see them off the stage.

Wil said, “I feel like when I walk into an elevator and there’s like, you know, four or five different other people in there, they’re thinking, ‘Hmm let’s see what this guy’s gonna do’ and they’ll double check. Maybe they’re not afraid, but they’re gonna notice.” But Wil’s reaction to this stereotype is surprisingly productive. He said, “In one sense I wish that [the stereotype] didn’t exist and I didn’t sense that, you know, that they were threatened just by my presence without even knowing who I am. Although I wish that it didn’t exist, I’m kind of glad for it because it gives me a goal. It gives me something to debunk.”

So when Black Violin steps on stage, dissolving stereotypes is their aim. Wil admitted this is his favorite part about playing the viola. “I like that when I play it people look at me funny. The reason why they look at me funny is because they haven’t really been exposed to someone that looks like me playing the way that I play. If they are seeing someone that looks like me they’re probably doing something like robbing a bank or selling weed or something like that,” Wil said. “The fact that I’m actually doing something that is perceived as elegant or high class to them, it’s almost like an oxymoron. It isn’t, but it’s just the way that the narrative has been controlled, so that’s something that I like: Seeing their faces and destroying their misperceptions.”

In other words, Wil said, “The reason I smile onstage is because I know I’m completely crushing people’s perceptions of not only what a violin can do and what music can sound like, but what a black man is capable of.”

And that goal of debunking false stereotypes is the focus of Black Violin’s new tour “Impossible.” Of the tour, Wil said, “We think of that word ‘impossible’ and we challenge people to really look at anything they’re trying to do, anything they’re trying to accomplish, their views, and their perspective and challenge them.”

Shattering mislaid beliefs about what’s possible was something Wil himself struggled with. He said, “If [20 years ago] I had thought about what I have now, who I am now, that would have seemed impossible.” Growing up the son of Haitian immigrants in a tough area made it easy to believe “the narrative of ‘You can’t achieve anything, you’re not supposed to do these things, you’re not supposed to be successful. The things that are around you — that’s what you’re supposed to do, that’s what you’re supposed to be.”

In fact, Wil often got in trouble with the security guards at school for making a ruckus. One day, one of the guards pulled him aside and told Wil a story about playing the saxophone. Wil took it to heart and decided to sign up for band class. However, a bet between the school’s music teachers landed Wil in orchestra instead, playing the viola. 

Similarly, Black Violin’s other half, Kev, almost succumbed to the expectations that he would become a product of his environment. At age 9, Kev was caught stealing candy. In response, his mom enrolled him in a music class to “get him off the streets.”

In both cases, Wil and Kev used music to escape the narrative that was set for them — to achieve the impossible.

The two met in high school, and as they continued to study music, the blend of hip hop and classical was natural for both of them. “We [combined classical and hip hop] because we were a product of our own environment at first. We happened to play classical music and, for us, hip hop was about expressing yourself and that’s just want we did.”

 

But again, the seeming impossibilities of what they were creating threatened their success. Of their music, Wil said, “Classical and hip hop: It seems like this impossible thing to do to combine these two genres.” 

 Where did their music belong? “People actually just thought it was weird because imagine just being in a club, having a good time and there’s two black dudes walking around playing the violin. I’m thinking about it now, and it is kind of weird.” But although their uniqueness was an obstacle, Wil also attributes their success to it. He said, “When we first started off, we didn’t have anybody to look up to or see or say ‘Oh, we should do it that way.’” This meant their music was absolutely authentic.

Wil and Kev kept doing what felt good to them and eventually got the opportunity to play at the Apollo — a theater where the audience isn’t ashamed to heckle. But instead of insults, Wil and Kev were met with thunderous appreciation.

Soon their music was succeeding in a way had seemed impossible for two black kids from the ghetto. They’ve continued to have success with the launch of their Impossible tour.

Wil believes that Black Violin’s music, as well as their story, will continue to reframe the way people understand what’s possible and dissolving unfounded stereotypes. When asked how that’s possible, he said that music can help people step outside their own experience to develop empathy. He said, “Instead of jump to certain conclusions and certain narratives that have been projected in our society, I think [empathy] would help us to not only educate ourselves, but it would help us to deal with the misperceptions that we all have about one another.”

May 03, 2019

Life On The Move ›  


300 Successful People Do These 4 Things Every Morning — Do You?

Every individual has different ways to set their day up for success. Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour starts her day off with a round of tennis while Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes at the early hour of 4:30 to send emails. Although there isn’t one formula for a successful morning routine, there are some common threads that guide these high-achievers to greatness.

Benjamin Spall of The New York Times has interviewed over 300 successful people. Here’s what he says are the most common morning routines he’s learned from successful people:

1. Experiment with your wake-up time

Spall reported that the average wake-up time among the people he’s interviewed is 6:27 am. However, he notes that while most of us try to wake up as late as possible and still make it to work, successful people experiment with their wake-up time to determine the ideal time that allows them to be rested and still enjoy the morning.

2. Make time for things that energize you

Energizing can look different for different people. It could mean working out, mediating, reading, or spending time with family. In fact, it could be as simple as opening the window to let in fresh air (a la Marie Kondo). Whatever form energizing takes for you, dedicate a part of your morning routine to making it happen.

3. Adapt your routine in different situations

Many high-achievers travel a lot, meaning their morning routine can be easily disrupted. That’s why Spall emphasizes the need to be flexible while still maintaining a morning routine. For example, if you’re at hotel that doesn’t provide your usual breakfast, try heading to a grocery store to pick up what you need.

4. Don’t beat yourself up

Spall said, “Nearly everyone I’ve talked to said they don’t consider one, two or even three missed days of their routine a failure, so long as they can get back to it as soon as they can.” So messing up isn’t the end of the world — just try again the next morning.

Need more inspiration? Check out this list of the morning routines of 10 successful people:

 

Elon Musk – Founder of Tesla and Neuralink

After six hours of sleep, Elon Musk wakes up at 7 am to respond to “critical emails.” Although he’s usually too busy for breakfast, Elon drinks coffee as he sends his five boys off to school. Then he showers and heads to work.

Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook founder

After waking at 8:00 am, Mark Zuckerberg does what any founder of a multi-billion dollar social media site would do: Check Facebook. After that, he works out, eats breakfast, and dons his signature uniform of a shirt, jeans, and hoodie. Why the same clothes? In 2014, Mark told an audience: “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”

Jeff Bezos – Amazon founder

Jeff Bezos says he likes to “putter in the morning.” So after getting eight hours of sleep and waking up naturally without an alarm clock, he reads the newspaper while drinking coffee. When his kids get up, he’ll eat breakfast with them before they go to school and he heads to the office. He doesn’t like meetings too early, however, he likes to set any “mentally challenging” meetings in the morning.

Oprah Winfrey – Media executive

Believe it or not, Oprah also wakes up each morning without an alarm clock. She said, “I don’t believe in them, they are alarming!” Instead, the night before, she visualizes the hour she wants to wake up. In the morning, she brushes her teeth and lets her dogs out. As she brews her espresso, Oprah reads inspirational quotes. After that, meditates for half and hour before doing low-impact strength training and going on a run on her 65-acre property.

Barack Obama – Former U.S. president

The former U.S. president doesn’t have a strict waking time. Instead he gets up two hours before his first event, works out, and eats his favorite breakfast: eggs, wheat toast, and bacon.

Donald Trump – U.S. president

First of all, the billionaire and U.S. president only gets about four hours of sleep per night. In his book, “Think Like a Billionaire,” he said, “Don’t sleep more than you have to.” When he wakes, he spends his morning watching the news, reading the paper, and tweeting. Usually he gets to the office for a morning meeting at 11 am.

Tim Cook – Apple CEO

This exec wakes at 4:30 and starts his day sending emails. He then works out and heads to the office. In general, he’s the first in and the last out of the office every day.

Steve Jobs – Apple founder

The late Steve Jobs woke every morning at 6 to get some work done before enjoying breakfast with the family. After that, he’d help his kids finish their homework and get them off to school. Then he was back to work, getting in a couple hours of things done before heading to the office at 8 or 9.

Arianna Huffington – Huffington Post founder

When she wakes up, Arianna Huffington doesn’t reach for her smartphone. Instead, she takes time to breathe deeply, be grateful, and set her intention for the day. Then she does some yoga. She says this morning routine helps her be successful throughout her day: “A conscious focus on breathing helps me introduce pauses into my daily life, brings me back into the moment, and helps me transcend upsets and setbacks.”

David Karp – Tumblr founder

Unlike many successful people, David Karp chooses not to check email at home. He said, “Reading emails at home never feels good or productive.” Instead, when he gets to the office at about 9:30 or 10, he’ll go through his gated inbox and make a list of what he needs to do that day.

May 03, 2019

Life On The Move ›  


Can Music Destroy Stereotypes? Here’s How the Musicians of Black Violin are Achieving the Impossible.

We interviewed Wil Baptiste from Black Violin to discover how he lives Life On The Move.

The term “classically-trained violinist” tends to conjure images of powdered wigs and silk concert dresses — not two big black men. However, that’s exactly who Wilner Baptiste and Kevin Sylvester, the musicians of Black Violin, are.

Both Wil and Kev studied music at universities, know the ins-and-outs of music theory, and are well-versed in the ways of classical composers like Bach. But these facts don’t erase the perceptions people have about Wil and Kev when they see them off the stage.

Wil said, “I feel like when I walk into an elevator and there’s like, you know, four or five different other people in there, they’re thinking, ‘Hmm let’s see what this guy’s gonna do’ and they’ll double check. Maybe they’re not afraid, but they’re gonna notice.” But Wil’s reaction to this stereotype is surprisingly productive. He said, “In one sense I wish that [the stereotype] didn’t exist and I didn’t sense that, you know, that they were threatened just by my presence without even knowing who I am. Although I wish that it didn’t exist, I’m kind of glad for it because it gives me a goal. It gives me something to debunk.”

So when Black Violin steps on stage, dissolving stereotypes is their aim. Wil admitted this is his favorite part about playing the viola. “I like that when I play it people look at me funny. The reason why they look at me funny is because they haven’t really been exposed to someone that looks like me playing the way that I play. If they are seeing someone that looks like me they’re probably doing something like robbing a bank or selling weed or something like that,” Wil said. “The fact that I’m actually doing something that is perceived as elegant or high class to them, it’s almost like an oxymoron. It isn’t, but it’s just the way that the narrative has been controlled, so that’s something that I like: Seeing their faces and destroying their misperceptions.”

In other words, Wil said, “The reason I smile onstage is because I know I’m completely crushing people’s perceptions of not only what a violin can do and what music can sound like, but what a black man is capable of.”

And that goal of debunking false stereotypes is the focus of Black Violin’s new tour “Impossible.” Of the tour, Wil said, “We think of that word ‘impossible’ and we challenge people to really look at anything they’re trying to do, anything they’re trying to accomplish, their views, and their perspective and challenge them.”

Shattering mislaid beliefs about what’s possible was something Wil himself struggled with. He said, “If [20 years ago] I had thought about what I have now, who I am now, that would have seemed impossible.” Growing up the son of Haitian immigrants in a tough area made it easy to believe “the narrative of ‘You can’t achieve anything, you’re not supposed to do these things, you’re not supposed to be successful. The things that are around you — that’s what you’re supposed to do, that’s what you’re supposed to be.”

In fact, Wil often got in trouble with the security guards at school for making a ruckus. One day, one of the guards pulled him aside and told Wil a story about playing the saxophone. Wil took it to heart and decided to sign up for band class. However, a bet between the school’s music teachers landed Wil in orchestra instead, playing the viola. 

Similarly, Black Violin’s other half, Kev, almost succumbed to the expectations that he would become a product of his environment. At age 9, Kev was caught stealing candy. In response, his mom enrolled him in a music class to “get him off the streets.”

In both cases, Wil and Kev used music to escape the narrative that was set for them — to achieve the impossible.

The two met in high school, and as they continued to study music, the blend of hip hop and classical was natural for both of them. “We [combined classical and hip hop] because we were a product of our own environment at first. We happened to play classical music and, for us, hip hop was about expressing yourself and that’s just want we did.”

 

But again, the seeming impossibilities of what they were creating threatened their success. Of their music, Wil said, “Classical and hip hop: It seems like this impossible thing to do to combine these two genres.” 

 Where did their music belong? “People actually just thought it was weird because imagine just being in a club, having a good time and there’s two black dudes walking around playing the violin. I’m thinking about it now, and it is kind of weird.” But although their uniqueness was an obstacle, Wil also attributes their success to it. He said, “When we first started off, we didn’t have anybody to look up to or see or say ‘Oh, we should do it that way.’” This meant their music was absolutely authentic.

Wil and Kev kept doing what felt good to them and eventually got the opportunity to play at the Apollo — a theater where the audience isn’t ashamed to heckle. But instead of insults, Wil and Kev were met with thunderous appreciation.

Soon their music was succeeding in a way had seemed impossible for two black kids from the ghetto. They’ve continued to have success with the launch of their Impossible tour.

Wil believes that Black Violin’s music, as well as their story, will continue to reframe the way people understand what’s possible and dissolving unfounded stereotypes. When asked how that’s possible, he said that music can help people step outside their own experience to develop empathy. He said, “Instead of jump to certain conclusions and certain narratives that have been projected in our society, I think [empathy] would help us to not only educate ourselves, but it would help us to deal with the misperceptions that we all have about one another.”