By Kim Constantinesco
For Lachlan Connors, 19, music wasn’t just an escape from reality. It gave him wings to a distinct passion and a newly enriched life.
After the former football player and lacrosse star suffered two severe blows to the head in middle school, the gift of music was quite literally born in the throngs of scar tissue and firing neurons in his traumatized brain.
With no prior musical talent before his head injuries, and forced to give up playing contact sports afterward, the Colorado native suddenly developed a keen musical ability to the tune of being able to play 15 instruments, all by ear.
Two Drastic Blows
Connors suffered his first concussion in sixth grade while playing football. The back of his head hit the ground with great force during a drill, and unbeknownst to him, the impact damaged his temporal lobes.
It wasn’t but a week later when Connors started having these “events” where he would hallucinate and his stomach would feel uneasy.
“It turned out I was having a form of epilepsy,” Connors said. “We went to several doctors and spent about two weeks in the hospital, where I had several scans.”
The seizures started to subside, so doctors cleared him to play lacrosse a year later.
“I went back to play just like the unwise younger guy that I was,” Connors said.
During the first practice, he got checked in the back of the head, and that was it. Another week and a half in the hospital and the reemergence of seizure-like symptoms put the formal end to Connors’ pursuit of contact sports.
Music From the Fingers
Being a fan rather than an athlete was hard for Connors. On game days, he would stay home because watching his friends play the sports he no longer could play was too much.
On one of those game days when Connors was sitting at home, he turned the radio on.
“I was listening to the radio, and Let It Be by the Beatles came on,” Connors said. “When it came on, I was wondering if I could actually go and play it. I went over to the piano and sure enough, Let It Be was coming out of my fingers and onto the piano. It was a little strange and kind of caught me off guard.”
Music was never on the forefront of Connors brain while growing up. His mother, who could only play Beethoven’s Fur-Elise, wanted Connors to learn how to play.
“She would write down these numbers on the keys with pencil that corresponded to Fur-Elise. I could play with all the numbers written onto the keys telling me where to play it, but then I’d go to another piano without the numbers, and I couldn’t play it,” Connors said.
That was the extent of his musical talent. After his second concussion, the seizures lasted about six months, but like Chopin, who had a form of epilepsy, his ear for tunes and melodies remained and reached astonishing levels.
“I kind of reap the rewards from the concussion today rather than suffering from any lingering effects,” Connors said.
An Arsenal of Instruments
Connors played in the band at Kent Denver School, where he helped the group win an award for the Best Rhythm and Blues Ensemble in America at the high school level.
Today, he can play 15 instruments including the ukulele, mandolin, guitar, bass guitar, accordion, and bag pipes. Although he had a strict band instructor who taught him how to read music a little bit, anything he learns how to play is done strictly by ear.
He’s a freshman at Pitzer College in Claremont, CA, where he’s permitted to design his own major, and has decided to get a dual degree in marketing and musical performance, so that can help ensure his own success as a musician and “hopefully do some good in the world.”
Connors has already developed quite a following whether from playing at house parties, weddings, or funerals, and he’s been able to build a semi-career out of it as a working student.
Connors, whose favorite all-time artist is Ray Charles, often reflects on what it would have been like to play sports growing up, but is able to see the larger picture.
“You always do think about what you might have missed by leaving the sport. Thankfully, I got this opportunity to follow another path,” Connors said. “It actually probably took me to where I am now. I don’t think I would have gotten into Pitzer without having the ability to play music.”
The chances of a career in music lasting longer than a career in professional sports are good, especially with an internal drive to make the world a better place using music.
“Music makes me so happy, and all I can wish for is that it continues to make me happy and make others happy when I play for them,” Connors said.
No matter when a sports career comes to an end, it doesn’t have to be one sad song. Clearly, the beat can go on.