FORT WORTH, Texas — Armond Vance knows he doesn’t fit the mold.
“My own upbringing, people expected me to play basketball. I’m 6-foot-4 and Black, specifically. They never expected me to play violin,” Vance said. “I grew up attending rehearsals where I was the only Black kid. I’m striving to change that narrative.”
But it’s not just the violin. He also plays viola, cello, bass and piano, much to the delight of his students at William James Middle School in Fort Worth. The Ohio State graduate is putting his music education degree to good use as the school’s orchestra director. It’s a role that lets him pursue his artistic passions while also paving the way for the next generation to challenge expectations.
“I would say the most gratifying aspect of teaching my students is to watch them grow, to see them from the beginning, where they come in, maybe a little confused, and getting to the point where they want to learn more,” he said.
One of the biggest lessons Vance hopes they’ll learn is that just because classical music has historically presented obstacles to musicians of color, that doesn’t have to be the case today.
“My goal is to inspire other kids, other Black kids, brown kids to also break that stereotype and just be themselves and express themselves musically,” he said.
Vance certainly has. His social media feed is filled with him performing traditional violin classics composed by Vivaldi, Bach and Rachmaninoff. But he also likes to flip the script, creating violin versions of hot hits from diverse artists like Cardi B, Erykah Badu, The Roots and more.
“When I am playing violin,” he said,” I feel like I'm on top of the world. There's a euphoric experience. And I kind of enter my own zone.”
Playing music professionally, educating the next generation, smashing stereotypes, Vance said he’s fortunate.
“Some people might find their passion a little later in life,” he said. “I’m living my dream currently, doing what I love, getting paid to do it. But I’m also making a positive impact on children. So I am a passenger in my own dream.”