Violinist Damien Escobar kicked off his tour with a performance and discussion Wednesday night at Whitmore Recital Hall.
Escobar, a two-time Emmy Award winning violinist who was featured on America’s Got Talent, was invited by the MU Black History Month Committee to make MU the first performance of his “I. AM. ME.” tour.
After growing up in Queens, New York Escobar began playing on the streets and in the subways of the city and eventually worked his way to the prestigious Julliard School. He said his music, a combination of hip-hop and classical, helped him figure out who he was as a person of mixed race.
“Music brings many different works together,” Escobar said. “People who speak different languages and come from different religions can get together by music. They can understand and enjoy it. They hear my melody and then they begin humming the melody.”
To Escobar, the culture of hip-hop has changed over the years.
“In my opinion, the hip-hop violin music is more about melody,” he said. “For me, it’s an evolvement of classical music. It is easy for me to play on stage.”
The performance and discussion was a featured event of Black History Month at MU. Stephanie Shonekan, assistant professor of ethnomusicology and Black Studies, said Escobar’s musical combination and his background make him unique.
“We thought (Escobar’s) life and his music stand well for the theme of emancipation, which is the theme for Black History Month,” Shonekan said. “I think his journey is one of emancipation. It frees him.”
Escobar encouraged audience members to pursue their dreams fearlessly.
“If you know what you want to do, when you grow up, just do it,” he said. “Why do we get scared? Life is too short. Spread your swings, and you fly.”
After the performance many audiences expressed that they were deeply affected by Escobar’s passion and confidence.
“I am interested in the idea and event,” junior Cicely Haire said. “My professors recommended it and said that it was different. I think the passion Damien Escobar brought to us is meaningful and what he did was inspiring.”