By Rachel DeSantis
Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Mozart? Hip-hop and classical music definitely don’t mix … right? Well, actually, wrong. And this university’s Hip-Hop Orchestra is ready to prove it to you.
At first glance, its Sunday afternoon rehearsal looks like nothing more than a bunch of best friends hanging out. The gang can’t go two seconds without teasing one another, whether it’s about an old Hollister T-shirt, a backward hat or a “that’s what she said” joke. Despite the fact that each member plays an instrument, there are no music stands—just a ladder and some tape.
The casual, welcoming environment remains intact for the rest of rehearsal, but as soon as the group’s leader, junior sociology major Marcus Moody, speaks up, the group’s dedication and work ethic become immediately clear.
“I used to produce beats for a friend of mine on campus and one day he told me to stop making symphonies,” said Moody, who said the group formed about a year and a half ago in October 2012. “I was just like, ‘screw you man!’ It started out as a joke, as a comeback. ‘I’ll just make a hip-hop orchestra!’ I took it a lot more seriously as the idea developed.”
Moody said that many of the founding members were already friends or were in the Living-Learning program, CIVICUS, with him. The remaining members were people he happened to have a chance meeting with. rf
“I was friends with Marcus from a bio lab class, and he brought up the idea to me that he wanted to form a hip-hop orchestra, and then got together with other,” said junior animal science major Sarah Sampliner, a cellist. “It started out as people who played instruments, but didn’t get a chance to do what they wanted with them.”
Saxophonist Johnny Weiss, a junior animal science major, echoed Sampliner’s sentiments.
“I used to play a lot of saxophone in high school, but I didn’t really have the chance to do anything with it in college until I came here,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to do that. And we get to do music that’s fun.”
Moody said he composes most of the songs the orchestra performs. The group is currently working on a Kanye West medley. Moody arranged the medley to incorporate a saxophone, clarinet, cello, four violins, viola, a rapper, bass and percussion instruments.
Despite the immense progress they’ve made over the past year, the group is still working hard to become better known.
“I saw them play last year at Maryland Day and I thought they were cool, so I just signed up,” said senior nutritional science major Callie Kambanis. “But everyone thinks I dance hip-hop here.”
Maryland Day 2013 was a big step for the group.
“We performed at Maryland Day and packed a theater no kind of marketing,” said Moody. “We even got a minor interview with WUSA Channel 9.”
The Hip-Hop Orchestra has done several flash performances, one in the Stamp Student Union and a few in the North and South Campus Dining Halls, and is always welcome to new members.
“When most people join, it’s like, ‘Oh my friend heard about it and I really want to join!’ And if they’re interested, they’ll stick around. We’re really flexible,” said Moody. “I’m really proud of everyone. We’re working on a music video that should be coming out within the year. I’m too excited; this is going to be a great semester.”