Syracuse University Magazine

McGriff.jpg

Eric and Anthony McGriff

Dynamic Duet

Children’s author Marc Brown is famously quoted as saying, “Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero!” And while twin brothers Eric and Anthony McGriff ’15 would likely affirm that being a brother can be amazing, they might also argue that brotherhood and superhero status need not be mutually exclusive. Okay, Eric may not be faster than a speeding bullet, and Anthony probably can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. But as spirited advocates of violence prevention, impassioned mentors and spokesmen for social justice, and accomplished professional musicians with a style all their own, the two make a dynamic duo. And they’re just getting started.    

The brothers’ passion for advocacy work originated with their experience during high school as volunteers for a Stop the Violence Summer Camp for children in Syracuse’s South Side neighborhood, a program developed by their church pastor in collaboration with the Syracuse City Police Department. “We had 8- to 10-hour days, and there could be as many as 150 children,” says Eric, a political philosophy and women’s and gender studies major in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) who feels called to tackle oppression and strive for equality. “But it was so fun—everything from playing kickball to bringing in speakers to going on field trips. To be a resource for those kids, to be there for them—it was touching. We both just fell in love with it.”  

Having grown up in a northern suburb of Syracuse, surrounded by a loving family and supported by caring teachers and mentors, the McGriffs say the camp opened their eyes to the social inequities of their own community, and inspired them to be agents for change. They went on to serve as chairmen for Vera House’s White Ribbon Campaign to help raise awareness about domestic violence, and entered a suicide prevention training program. “We’ve learned how one person can make a difference,” says Anthony, an A&S political science major who hopes to work in the field of mentor programming. “As camp volunteers, we were able to impact the lives of more than 100 children, just us two people. If we can pay it forward, we can change our community. We can make it a safer place. That’s really inspiring. And it’s all I want to do.”

At SU, the McGriffs persist in their commitment to making a positive impact, encouraging others to do the same through their words and example. They’re actively engaged with the University’s Advocacy Center, a unit within the Division of Student Affairs that provides sexual and relationship violence services, prevention, and education. The brothers are involved with several peer programs at the center, including serving as Mentors in Violence Prevention peer facilitators. Both also have leadership roles in A Men’s Issue, a student organization celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, working to redefine masculinity and put an end to relationship violence. They are also youth coordinators with their church, and continue to volunteer at Vera House, which honored them with its Special Appreciation Award last year.

Behind their social justice work plays a unique and somewhat surprising soundtrack: The two are talented and enthusiastic musicians who perform as a string duet, often covering contemporary hip-hop songs on their classical instruments—Eric on violin and Anthony on the cello. “We started playing in elementary school and eventually began doing our own thing,” Eric says. “At age 15, we booked our first wedding. And from that point on people just loved our style.”  Frequent winners of music competitions while in school, the brothers now perform up to 15 times a month at SU shows and receptions, faculty weddings, or community events. “Our style of music is cool,” Anthony says. “People like it, and it’s something we love to do. It’s our passion, but not our profession. Our first love is for advocacy work and speaking up to help people.” ­    —Amy Speach





Photo by John Dowling