Zachary Clejan, a 2015 University of Georgia graduate, started experimenting with a sub-genre of music he calls trap violin, which incorporates elements of both classical and trap music. Clejan now lives in Los Angeles, where he has spent his time in quarantine creating TikToks to market his music. Clejan currently has almost 112,000 followers and over 511,000 likes on his TikTok profile, @thetrapviolinist, as of press time.
The Red & Black spoke with Clejan about how he found the genre and how TikTok has impacted his career as a musician.
The Red & Black: How did you get into doing TikTok videos with trap violin?
Zachary Clejan: I’ve been pursuing the trap violin thing for about a year and a half, and my team helps me out with everything. It was my goal this year to just start organically marketing myself and my music in any way possible, and TikTok is a really great way to do that, so I’d heard. So, I got on it in like March and really started putting work into it and six months later, it’s finally paying off.
R&B: What made you want to start exploring the intersect between trap music and classical violin?
ZC: I come from a classical family. I’m like a fourth-generation musician and I was raised in classical music and trained in classical music my whole life. Growing up, I started when I was three, playing violin, and I was taught by the second chair in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for most of my life. So, I grew up playing classical, but I didn’t enjoy any of it. I actually loved hip-hop and trap. You know, growing up in Atlanta, like that’s a big scene there and I really fell in love with that kind of music. When I graduated from UGA I moved to Los Angeles. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life but I had some ideas and one of them was music. I wanted to experiment with this idea of how I can use this classical instrument in different ways. [I] started making hip hop covers of songs, just some popular stuff on like Instagram, YouTube. People started to like it so I started doing more and more. Eventually, using Lindsey Stirling as inspiration, I started writing my own music and just kind of went from there. I saw a lane and just kind of dove in and now it’s starting to get some buzz. It’s really exciting.
R&B: What kind of impact has TikTok had on your career?
ZC: It’s crazy. It’s so crazy. I wasn’t sure what kind of impact that would have when I started but it’s been insane. Like it affects everything else I’m working on. Like, I have a video do well and my Spotify streams will go up, my Spotify listeners will go up, my Instagram following will go up, my YouTube subscriptions will go up. TikTok is literally such a powerful marketing tool. I’ve been trying everything for a long time, but there’s nothing like TikTok. It’s been incredible, honestly, like how helpful it’s been and how much it’s genuinely impacting my music career. It’s giving me credibility. It’s opening me up to fans all over the world in a way that I really could not do on my own.
R&B: When you’re performing live shows again, do you expect your TikTok success to transfer to those performances in terms of audience attendance?
ZC: I do think it will help. I mean, the thing with TikTok is it’s so global. It’s gonna be a toss up whether I have TikTok fans where I’m doing a live show. But, it’s definitely increased my fanbase, like I would say, tenfold already. And, so I do think there’s a very high chance that there will be people from TikTok coming out to see my live shows. I’ve gotten some of my most loyal fans from TikTok, so I definitely think that they’ll be coming out and wanting to see me live. I do live shows on TikTok too. That’s actually how I get paid and pay some of my bills. [Viewers are] able to gift donations during the live so it helps a lot.
R&B: Any last comments?
ZC: I’d love to mention that I have pledged a portion of every profit I make as a musician to the Black Lives Matter movement and community, just to help out communities of color and for racial equality. I’m donating a portion of everything I make for like the rest of my career as a musician to those causes because I know that my music is rooted in Black culture and I wouldn’t be where I am without it. That’s an important message I want to get across in this climate. And then, other than that just go dawgs. I love Georgia and I would love to be something that came out of Georgia that was good. I want to help inspire kids and keep making music and think outside the box.
Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.