By Brandon Lloyd
I saw clouds of rosin dust rising in front of my violin. We played as if there was no tomorrow and, in a way, there wasn't, since this was Mr. Eckfeld's last concert as conductor. The songs were an understated culmination of his tenure at White Plains High School. His years of teaching dissipated into me as I played the uptempo selections such as Allegro, Aus Holbergs Zeit, and Walzer, conveying the merry, high points in his career. The slow, melancholy, and somber songs such as Xyklus 3 sent another message: "Goodbye, my dear old friends."
Yes he was saying goodbye to us, but not to music. Neither his retirement nor aging would sever him from his love and prevent him from a pleasurable moment with his own violin. This powerful reflection came with the transformative roles of the violin and guitar in my life. They became my models of optimism -- instruments of the idea that good things can evolve from tragic moments.
It started when I faced the biggest milestone in my other passion: Martial Arts. JT Torres and Pablo Popovitch, two of the world's best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, were coming to my martial arts school. I have always idolized them in the way I revere Mr. Eckfeld, and I was thrilled to step on the mat with them. Before I knew it, I was in the mix, practicing takedowns and drills with Torres and Popovitch. It was surreal. I was getting up after showing my partner a submission, when I felt a sudden twinge and loud pop in my knee. I crumpled to the ground writhing in pain. I couldn't get up with excruciating pain shooting up into my leg and knee. I have encountered gruesome injuries before, but nothing like this.
In the following days, the onslaught of bad news crippled my emotional state. My MRI showed that I had torn my left meniscus, which required surgery. I couldn't return to Martial Arts for at least six months. For 10 years, I had never gone a week without martial arts. Six months seemed unbearable!
Music lifted me from my despair. After surgery, I had copious amounts of time for my guitar and violin. Previously, I practiced music outside of school about twice a week. After the injury, I practiced every day. I began to see the notes differently as music offered what physical therapy didn't: a way to express myself. The instruments became extensions of myself as I got lost in the music I played. The slow, downbeat pieces laced with somber and melancholy notes perfectly reflected and described my emotional state in the first weeks after therapy.
Yet, one small moment profoundly changed my outlook on music: the words of a physician's assistant teaching me to care for my leg. "When you're young you should make sure not to rush recovery and remember you won't be able to do some of the things you can do now when you're much older." The words hit me while I was practicing guitar. I won't be able to perform some of the martial arts techniques that require substantial skill when I'm older. Yet I could play my violin and guitar for years beyond retirement, just as Mr. Eckfeld can. His talent grew with age, as I hope mine will. However, my limitations in martial arts may grow as I age. Had the injury not happened, I may not have fully appreciated my future with music or the true meaning of Mr. Eckfeld's last night conducting my orchestra. It was a moment emphasizing the potential for a long future with my instruments on my own terms. I may not have a career as a musician but the instruments will always be there for me to pick up and will offer a mode of expression.
Brandon Lloyd, a graduate of White Plains High School, will be a freshman at George Washington University in September.