The madness of black art | Black joy
Armond Vance brings beauty to your fingertips. A master of the violin and viola, Vance first learned the violin at age 12 after listening to a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” performed by DSharp, an Atlanta-based violinist, singer and producer.
24-year-old Ohio native Vance is now passing his skills on to his students as a conductor at a college in Fort Worth, Texas. He uses Instagram and TikTok to showcase his classic music mixes with current bops, like Cardi B’s “Up”, and uses social media to teach thousands of followers about the black and brown songwriters who have been cleared from the program.
You can read more about why Vance considers himself an arts activist and how he is trying to decolonize the music program for his students and adults on our website. But for now, let’s see how he got into music.
You have therefore been playing the violin for more than ten years. Do you come from a family with deep musical roots?
My first musical experience was dancing with my three sisters who were much older to me but they were into dance, hip and other styles of dance like contemporary and they were on dance teams. So it was kind of like my first musical education, I would say just listening to 90s hip hop and R&B – early 2000s.
Then of course the music my mom listened to sounded more like Motown and she was very good at drawing. There was certainly a lot of creative energy in our house.
So your mother had the creative energy of drawing, the creative energy of your sisters came from dancing, and your creative energy came from the violin?
Well, the violin first. I started in college and had a really cool art director who really gave me the space to explore the possibilities of what my instrument could do, which were sort of limitless. I always tried to play hip hop songs and pop tunes on my instrument from a young age and he approved of it.
He encouraged me to compose my own pieces of music and to arrange pop tunes for orchestras. When I was 15, thanks to his support and motivation, I wrote an arrangement for the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. They didn’t just execute him. I must also direct it. It was kind of the turning point for me, like, “Oh, that’s what I can see myself doing that for a living.”
Some of your Instagram and TikTok videos show you playing the violin while skating in the park and in the classroom. How were you introduced to skating and why does it bring you joy?
I was introduced to skating when I was 7 years old. My mom and I were roller skating together, and my elementary school used to have skating nights at the rink when I was 10 years old. I loved it.
I would go to every blue moon after this point. But once the pandemic hit, I spent more time on it, bought my own skates, watched a lot of YouTube and fell in love with it again! I like to skate because it’s very liberating. Like, I’m invincible. It is especially good for a black man living in a world that often sees you as a threat.
During the pandemic, you became known for your concerts on the porch. What inspired you about these events and what do you hope people take away from them?
I started the concerts on the porch in May 2020 after a guy heard me practicing in the lobby of my apartment complex if I could perform for his girlfriend’s birthday.
The idea arose both from the need to bring musical healing to those at a time when we were all very locked up and the desire to share my art with others and to tap more into my authentic artistic self. My concerts on the porch were safe because I could be outdoors and socially distanced. The intimate, close and personal character of these concerts was a unique experience for the listeners and it allowed me, not originally from the region, to really get to know the community.