It was a Google search that brought classically trained, modern-influenced violinist Armond Vance to Fort Worth from his native Ohio digs. He’d lived in Toledo for most of his life — don’t get started on the city’s weird nuances and lack of identity — and had recently earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Ohio State University in Columbus.
Vance was ready for a change of scenery and knew a few people in the Lone Star State who were trying to convince the 22-year-old to move to Texas.
“I was literally looking for orchestra director jobs in Texas, and Fort Worth popped up,” Vance says. “There’s really no magical fairy tale story about this. I had a friend who told me that they pay more for teaching jobs here, and I was like, ‘ Okay.”
While his trip to Texas may seem streamlined, thanks to modern technology and slightly uneventful, Vance quickly caused a stir when he arrived.
He currently teaches orchestra at William James Middle School in East Fort Worth, but his influence goes far beyond the students in his class. Whether you’re hanging around the Drover Hotel, the Dallas Farmers Market, or strolling the Near Southside, you’ll likely encounter the tall, lanky fiddler roaming the streets, who will force you to stop and listen intently to a spell. . But don’t expect to hear too many Bach or Mozart classics. Instead, Vance will likely give you renditions of Beyoncé and Kanye West hits; Vance’s repertoire deliberately draws inspiration from modern R&B artists and classic black songwriters who were highly influential in their time.
Vance has a particular fondness for Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a composer who has been described as the Black Mozart, a label that Vance is quick to point out as something that undermines the true genius of Chavalier de Saint Georges.
“People don’t understand the influence the Chevalier de Saint-Georges had on Mozart’s music,” says Vance. “I hate that people call him the black Mozart when in reality Mozart was the white St. George. But I guess we attribute that to the whitewashing of history.
For our interview, I met Vance at Cherry Coffee on Magnolia in the trendy Near Southside. We chatted for hours on a range of topics, including his abstinence despite his love for Fort Worth’s growing nightlife scene and a Ghanaian pendant he wears around his neck that signifies wisdom. When the conversation turned more cerebral, I was impressed with Vance’s ability to get poetic about race, social justice, and musical history — while deftly blending all three. It’s clear that he not only understands the nuances of racism, but also thinks critically and seeks solutions.
Although Vance has a natural ear for music and can play any genre one might ask for during one of his performances, his preference is to highlight black musicians in order to raise awareness.
“As an artist, I think it’s important to use our platform to get some things out there,” Vance says. “I want to talk about things like social justice, Black Lives Matter and a list of other important issues that we don’t have time to address.”
While many become musicians under pressure from their parents — taking piano lessons at the age of five — Vance’s journey has a modern twist. With little coercion from his mother, Vance was first drawn to the violin after watching a YouTube video of someone playing the hip-hop violin.
“I had no idea the road existed,” Vance says. “I mean, it would have been assumed at the time that you had to choose one or the other, so that really piqued my interest.
“So I started researching how to integrate hip-hop and R&B into classical music and how it’s been integrated into black music for so long. Jazz music regularly incorporates string instruments. And hip artists modern-hop artists such as Kanye West often incorporate strings into the production of their albums, so it’s really not a stretch; [strings] can fit anywhere.
But Vance’s musical acumen goes far beyond covering other artists; the 24-year-old also has a knack for composing original material. While in Ohio, Vance composed “Revolution,” a piece he made in honor of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who died in 2019 after being choked by police officers in Aurora. , Colorado.
“Needless to say, I felt a connection to him because he was my age at the time and also played the violin,” Vance says. “I compose a lot. I would like to do more, but I am a slow worker. The element of composition and creating something no one has heard before is what really inspired me to do [music] a long term thing.
As ironic as it sounds, it was after the hit of COVID-19 that Vance started performing in front of the crowd. With no website or booking agent, Vance uses Instagram and Facebook to connect with his audience and uses the platforms to communicate with those who want to book him for gigs – undoubtedly cementing his reputation as a real Gen Zer handyman at work.
“Do you want me to play in your room or your party? Just message me on Facebook or Instagram, and I’ll get back to you,” Vance says.
As the conversation ended, I asked Vance what his plans were and what his ultimate ambition was – a typical question that usually gets a typical answer. I assumed he would tell me he wanted to record with Kanye, win the Nobel Prize after racking up a few Grammys, start a record label in New York, or any other conversation that failed to take over the world. I was shocked to find that his ambitions were far from shaking the world. Vance, as he told me, is happy where he is. And it occurred to me. The teacher, the artist and the lawyer think he is much better suited to shake up the community. The world has many shakers of its own.
“I love Fort Worth and I love the community,” Vance says. “I see Fort Worth as a city that is really starting to grow and develop in a very positive way, and I love being a part of it.
“I’m not trying to win a Grammy, and I’m not trying to be the best violinist in the world. I appreciate all the honors I receive through the process, and I appreciate being an article in this magazine, but my goal is to live life authentically.
You can catch Armond Vance this Friday night at the Tulips where he will pair his violin with a Ronnie Heart DJ set.