Daniel D. makes the violin cool

Daniel D.

If you haven't been to a Piccolo Spoleto event yet, it's not too late.

There are still some good gets available. And many are free — my kind of price.

One that has piqued my interest is A Touch of Jazz, a community festival and jazz concert from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Robert Mills Manor Courtyard, 20 Franklin St. in downtown Charleston.

The free concert features Daniel D., a 2007 School of the Arts graduate. He is a classically trained violinist who plays jazz, R&B and hip hop. Unique.

Daniel D. is making a name for himself, along with his band. A quick visit to YouTube will show why. He makes the violin cool, hip.

But that has not always been the case for this 20-something Charleston native. At 12, when he first started playing, he didn't like the violin.

Like many young African-Americans, Daniel Davis thought the violin was not cool. But at the arts school, he was given a choice of playing it or the hand bells.

He always thought the instrument “wasn't for someone like me.” You don't hear about a lot of blacks playing the violin.

But when he started taking private lessons a year later, his whole perspective changed.

His instructor, Hennigan Kearns, was a classically trained violinist. And he was African-American. And he made the violin look cool.

Davis said sometimes it was a struggle being the only African-American or one of two in an orchestra. And many think blacks don't play the violin. Even friends and classmates would tease him when he couldn't play basketball because he had to practice.

But Davis used all that to make himself work harder at his craft.

And it paid off. No one is teasing him now.

Davis' goal now is to inspire others — anyone of any ethnicity — to pick up the violin. He loves playing it.

As a matter of fact, he has two students who are taking lessons.

Davis, who has played with chamber groups, still plays classical music with his string quartet. However, his focus is using his violin to play contemporary music as well.

He has been doing that since he took his violin to an event with his uncle, a DJ. He played along to jazz and other tunes.

He was hooked. He was 15 or 16 and he got paid.

Davis, who studied at New York's Juilliard School of Music, did a violin remix of Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech. And he has performed at events throughout the country, including as an opening artist for the 2008 President Barack Obama Presidential Campaign.

He especially looks forward to the Jazz festival Thursday because it allows him a chance to give back to his community. And, there might be a budding violinist in the audience.

For more information and other events, go to www.piccolospoleto.com or call 866-811-4111.

Reach Assistant Features Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555, or sgreene@postandcourier.com.

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