Youtube sensation champions hip-hop violin

Mechelle Hankerson
Assistant Spectrum Editor

Eric Stanley’s hobby of playing violin began as a school activity and recently propelled the 19-year-old VCU Music major to Youtube stardom.

On Jan. 1, 2010, Stanley posted himself playing the violin to the song “Successful” by Trey Songz on his Youtube account.

Now, Stanley has over 300,000 views on some of his videos.

Last month, Stanley was invited out to Phoenix, Ariz., to perform at a company sales event. The company paid for Stanley’s trip, and once in Phoenix, Stanley played three one-hour sets and was interviewed by Fox10 in Scottsdale.

Stanley said he was inspired to do this by his sister, Anhayla Rene, who also posted a video on her Youtube account the same day.

“I had a Youtube account for the longest time, but I didn’t have any videos,” Rene, a senior accounting major at VCU, said.

Rene said she simply wanted feedback on her videos, since she was just beginning to teach herself how to play the guitar.

“I really didn’t have an idea, I just went and posted a video,” she said. “I always wondered what did people think, and if I wanted to know what people think (of me).”

Once she realized people were responding to her videos, Rene encouraged Stanley to post some videos of himself. Her encouragement paid off.

Stanley started playing violin when he was in sixth grade at Short Pump Middle School with the encouragement of his teachers, but also because he knew the violin was the best fit for him.

“I could’ve been in the band,” Stanley said. “I tried trumpet … and the trumpet didn’t work for me (because) I didn’t have the lungs for it.”

For Stanley, this was a twist of fate that would lead him to take his violin-playing beyond just an after-school activity.

Stanley has covered popular songs like Drake’s “Find Your Love,”  Eminem’s “Not Afraid,” and even created an orignal arrangement of Young Money’s “BedRock.”

“I like playing all kinds of different music,” he said. “I don’t want to put myself in a more specific genre. That’s cool that people can call me a hip-hop violinist, but I want to be known as an all-around good violinist. I want to appeal to all kinds of different people.”

Stanley said that he chooses songs depending on the effect they have on him personally.

“(When I did Eminem’s ‘Not Afraid’), that had a message,” he said. “Like, I’m not afraid to get up here, in front of millions of people and play violin. … And I want other kids to be not afraid so they can pick up an instrument because a lot of kids are very afraid of playing an instrument in front of a camera or in front of people, or in general. They think it’s not cool.”

Stanley said his process for creating his violin performances vary in difficulty, but he generally follows the same basic process.

“I might listen to the song two or three times and I find a melody and I build around the melody,” he said. “I kind of find a different, alternative melody so it will sound good.”

“(When I did) B.o.B’s ‘Airplanes,’ I just jumped up and started playing that. That took like 15 minutes,” he said. “But when I did “Bed Rock,” that took like three hours because I did background strings and I made the bone track to it.”

Stanley makes a conscious effort to make sure the songs can be played over and over again without his listeners tiring of the song.

Rene has a similarly simple explanation of her process.

“When I taught myself how to play the piano, (I put) lyrics to the piano to make the melody up,” she said.

Rene said her mother had a lot to do with her and her siblings’ love of music. Rene and Eric have an older brother, Marcus Stanley, who plays piano but does not attend VCU.

“My mom played the piano,” Rene said. “When we were growing up, she was playing the piano and she was always encouraging us to do music whether in church or at home.”

Both Rene and Stanley have goals beyond their respective Youtube channels. Rene has posted a few original songs that she wrote and recorded, and after graduating this year, she plans on pursuing her music career full-time.

“I’m either moving to Dallas, New York, or L.A.,” she said. “It just depends where everybody on my team is going because everyone is so dispersed,” she said, referring to her manager and public relations team she met through Youtube.

“It’s been hard to keep everything together, especially with school. Having everybody together will make it a lot easier.”

Stanley, however, still has a few more years until he’s finished with his education, and plans on seeing what comes his way.

“It doesn’t matter (what I do), I just want to get my name out there so people know ‘Oh, that’s Eric, he’s on track, he’s making violin music mainstream.’”

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