Mozart meets Eminem: UMD Hip-Hop Orchestra
When sitting in an audience and listening to an orchestra, tapping your foot is the extent of any dancing you may do. But, when listening to the University of Maryland’s Hip-Hop Orchestra, you can headbang, according to Derek Whittle, the group’s president.
The senior electrical engineering major said the organization started performing a while back, and in 2016, the group opened for Art Attack after winning SEE’s Battle of the Bands competition. However, after the founder, Marcus Moody, graduated and began another group, Hip-Hop Orchestra mostly dissolved, Whittle said.
Deven Kumar, a sophomore computer science major and treasurer of Hip-Hop Orchestra, said members brought the group back in 2018 because they wanted to become a popular group on campus.
“We’ve just been doing crazy recruitment over the past few years to build it back up,” Whittle said of the group, which now comprises about 30 members.
Whittle said the group has tried to transform its sound to be more broad and to extend deeper into both the orchestra and hip-hop. He described the band’s sound as a mix of technical orchestral music with a hard-hitting hip-hop beat.
The group plays songs such as “Empire State of Mind” by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z and “Young, Wild & Free” by Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg.
Whittle’s favorite song to play is a mash-up of Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and Eminem’s “Real Slim Shady.”
“That song really showcases that even though hip-hop and orchestral music are fundamentally different, they can make a tone that you haven’t heard before,” Whittle said.
This piece embodies their mission statement, which Kumar said is to “make a fusion of hip-hop and orchestral music to share with the rest of the community.”When problems arise at the group’s weekly rehearsals, they are easy to resolve because the group is so small, Kumar said. The hardest part is ensuring that they have productive rehearsals and are efficient with their time.
Kumar, who will be the next president of the group, hopes that in the future the group is able to perform more for larger audiences.
The group has a performance Friday at Nyumburu Amphitheater. The group will debut an original piece and showcase its improvisational skills by making up a song together on the spot.
“[Students] can expect to hear songs they know as opposed to music by some random composer they’ve never heard of,” Kumar said.
Kumar said the group is always open to new members, whether they be musicians, rappers or vocalists.
“Everyone is welcome to come play with us, no matter their level of playing,” Kumar said.