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Two brothers who spent part of their lives with gangs in South Ozone Park have become the pride of Queens.
Damien and Tourie Escobar have combined their training in classical violin with a love for hip-hop, reggae and jazz to create a unique sound that has captured the nation's imagination.
Recently, the brothers, who call their act "Nuttin' but Stringz," were among the five finalists on NBC's "America's Got Talent." Many of the acts that auditioned were goofy, but there were some extremely talented people, including those who made it to the final 10.
In the show, three celebrity judges do the early screening, but the TV audience does the final voting. Had more young people been watching than baby boomers, there is a good chance the Escobars would have won.
The brothers' story is as amazing as their talent. The boys lived with their mother in southeast Queens. They picked up the violin in music class at their elementary school not because they cared about the instrument, but because there was no other choice. Damien was 8 when he started taking lessons and by 10 he was playing Mozart.
The rest is history. Their talent was recognized and the boys went on to study at the Julliard School and Bloomingdale School of Music on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
Carrying a violin case through the neighborhood took more than courage. The brothers admit that at one point they were sucked in by the gang culture and Tourie was nearly killed.
They found an unlikely nexus in their two worlds and developed a music of their own that combines classical violin with the hip-hop from the streets. They made money early on playing on subway cars and their talent was soon recognized.
Their first real breakthrough came when they performed at the Apollo Theater. Since then, they have appeared on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, "Today," "Ellen" and even at the White House.
We hope this is just the beginning for the brothers, who have won national acclaim. They have written dozens of original pieces that fuse hip-hop and classical. They worked hard to get where they are, but they owe their success to a mother and teachers who believed in them and pushed them to greatness.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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