Within the last year, Velodyne Acoustics, Inc. has reinvented itself after nearly 30 years in the audio business where the company has been recognized for creating and manufacturing some of the best subwoofers in the world. Just diving into the headphone business early this year, after investing decades of audio expertise honed by CEO and Founder David Hall, it is evident that the new products show a different side of the company. The headphone designs are modern, artistic and unlike any other headphones on the market. Designed and crafted by Marta Hall, a recognized public artist, these headphones are an extension of her passion for the arts and music. Coupled with David’s technology, the headphones not only look beautiful, but the sound is unrivaled. Recently Velodyne has forged a special relationship with Ashanti Floyd, a.k.a, The Mad Violinist. During a stunning performance at a Velodyne party in New York last June after the CEA Line Shows, President Marta Hall realized there was something special about this musician. After spending some time getting to know Ashanti it became readily apparent that his values and passion for music were very in line with the values and objectives of the company. It is quite fitting that Velodyne has chosen Ashanti, a 5-time Grammy nominated artist, to be an ambassador for Velodyne headphones. Velodyne will be releasing two new models this month, the vFree wireless on ear headphone and the vTrue studio headphone.
How did you get your start in music? Were you classically trained or self-taught? I started playing the violin when I was three years old after strong encouragement from my mother, she is an incredible musician. She had been playing for many years and is a true inspiration to me. She was very adamant that I learn and focus on classical during my development, I even traveled to Europe to perform in Classical music competitions. I also had a strong focus on gospel music when I was younger, playing alongside my father in our local Tallahassee church. I have played in advanced string placement with both The Turtle Island and Pacifica String Quartet’s. I was very fortunate to study under the renowned composer and conductor, Michael Kamen at Luzerne in New York.
Originally, I planned on auditioning on viola at Juilliard School for Performing Arts, but chose to focus on attending Berklee College of Music as a contemporary violinist. I began to change my focus musically while at Berklee when I noticed a shift in the appreciation towards “real” music. I do like a lot of musical genres, but I realize how important it is that our youth understands and appreciates music that involves real instruments. I became passionate about discovering my own craft on a deeper level when I really found the similarities in different genres including Pop, Hip Hop, R&B, Jazz and Alternative Music. I really became inspired to do something very different when I began touring with Lupe Fiasco.
Tell me about your band. In 2009, after leaving Yelawolf, myself and guitarist Matt Barrett formed The Symphony Crack Orchestra to create a different, innovative style of music. Together, we have co-produced and performed on albums that in the last two years received a combined eight Grammy nominations. You will hear us on Lupe Fiasco’s “The Show Goes On,” which received three nominations. Other Grammy nominations were received for Nicki Minaj’s “I’m the Best,” and Fantasia Barinno’s album Back To Me.
In 2011, Symphony Crack released our ﬁrst album, The Addiction, and soon became an album we knew would be the platform to where we are today. The names, Symphony Crack and Addiction, are indicative of the inﬂuences and love for music that brought all of us together. As a group, we bring a lot of passion into the creation and performance of our music, we want our fans to have a unique musical experience unlike anything they have ever witnessed.
What is your background in working with music and youth? What spurred your interest in working with children and music in education? I have always known how important it is to teach youth music, whether it’s an instrument, sheet music, theory, or even composition. My mother has always taught strings and I was able to witness all the good she did through that. Also, all of my siblings play an instrument and are very talented. Our schools need to put a stronger focus on musical programs, that is one of the reasons why I’m so supportive of Velodyne as they have recently become so involved in VH1’s Save the Music Foundation. To this day, I still go back to Florida to help teach at my mom’s String School.
What advice would you have for the youth of today that is interested in music or even your younger self? The best advice I can give people who are learning to do anything musically is to NEVER give up. I struggled with this when I was younger when people used to make fun of me playing the violin. I love what I do and it is part of who I am. If it’s something you love, your soul and passion will pour into your learnings and eventually show you your own greatness. Just don’t. give. up. period.