To the beat of his own drum: Honoring the life and legacy of Victor McElhaney

first_img“I always thought he was 35 years old, the way he carried himself and the way he had formulated his approach to life,” Serfaty said. Serfaty described McElhaney’s talents as a stew, as a unique blend of elements that complemented each other well. “The night Victor was killed, I felt like someone had ripped every bone through my body,” Lynette said. “I couldn’t stand.” Gone too soon “He was an amazing musician,” said Syann Cromwell, a close friend and junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law and African American studies and ethnicity. “Rhythm was his essence, was his body. Everything was music.” McElhaney was the co-director of Brothers Breaking B.R.E.A.D., a Black Student Assembly organization that welcomes black men into a community to foster black male leadership. He felt comfortable bringing up the big issues that people avoided, such as racism, homophobia and misogyny. He challenged people to give their opinions, but he gave them the opportunity to explain why they felt that way. He wanted to create spaces where people could discuss difficult issues and learn from each other. Victor McElhaney, pictured around age seven, was passionate about the intersection of music and advocacy. (Photo courtesy of Lynette McElhaney) He even turned spaces that weren’t meant for conversation into opportunities to talk about social issues and hear diverse perspectives. During a Latin band rehearsal with Serfaty, McElhaney brought up race relations, and the multi-faceted conversation among his peers lasted for two hours. Not one note was played during that rehearsal — only students expressing their opinions, observations and concerns could be heard. “If he saw you for five minutes, he would make that the most impactful five minutes he could with whatever he was doing with his day,” Cromwell said. “Even if he could only give you a hug, it would be the best hug that you had ever gotten.” McElhaney’s passion for people and his investment in their goodness helped him build an inclusive community at USC. Soon after his passing, the University held a memorial at Ronald Tutor Campus Center. By the start of the service, the main ballroom overflowed with students of every race and background, from all corners of USC, coming together for one reason: “Vic.” According to his mother Lynette, he’d just been trying to go to an art show. Leading by example She hopes the murderer feels enough remorse and guilt to come forward and seek help. Society never invested in her son’s murderer, she said, and that created a monster. Creating conversation “He was passionate about it,” Serfaty said. “He was very articulate, very intelligent. And he was intense.” Like a pilot flies a plane, a drummer steers a band. They keep everyone on a beat and highlight the individuality of the other musicians. Drummers accentuate the guitar riffs and highlight the horn section rhythm, all while staying in control as the backbone of the band. A drummer’s vitality affects the way everyone plays, and it keeps the musicians in sync. When her son was killed, Lynette was in shock. “That’s just Vic,” Cromwell said. “His personality was literally to help you. If he saw a potential in you to do something, he would push you to do it. He wanted his people to know that they’re very capable and that he believed in that, and in them.” “He was the warmth in every circle,” Lynette said. While grieving the loss of his best friend, McElhaney pondered the conditions of poverty and the importance of mental health. These contemplations were only a small part of his deeper meditation on life’s injustices and how he could challenge them through art. Victor McElhaney warms up before his audition for the Thornton School of Music in January 2017. (Photo courtesy of Lynette McElhaney) From the moment McElhaney could sit up, he was drumming. At three years old, he would only say two words when people asked how he was doing: “I drum.” On April 13, a group of close friends gathered to celebrate Victor McElhaney’s 22nd birthday. He had planned a lingerie party, with no rules as to how little could be worn. If showing up naked was what made his friends feel liberated, then he was all for it. A month before his birthday, McElhaney, a student in the Thornton School of Music’s jazz studies program, was senselessly shot and killed by four muggers in a liquor store parking lot about a mile and a half off USC’s campus. Through another brainstorming session with Cromwell, he decided to start showing movies followed by a discussion of its major themes. He organized a screening of “Moonlight” at Ground Zero, at which he fostered an open conversation about identity and breaking down barriers in the first installment of a series called “Keep Me Grounded.” It turned into an event that many students remembered and spoke about at McElhaney’s memorial. Lynette and her husband fostered Hughes’ mother for one year when she was a teenager, and kept a close relationship with her and her son. When Hughes was in second grade and Victor was in third, Hughes moved in with the McElhaneys for six years. “And the monster took my baby,” Lynette said. “There’s a funk element to him, and he was also swinging hard,” Thornton professor Aaron Serfaty said. “He understood the jazz tradition really well. But he was also a hip-hop artist, so he was like a mix of two things.” McElhaney was always comfortable around his multigenerational family, whether it was talking to his great grandfather or playing with his 2-year-old baby cousin. He advocated for his cousins to his aunt and uncle, acting as a liaison when problems between them arose. But he wasn’t there. “Even though he was the youngest, in many ways he was the big brother,” Lynette said. “[He was] very responsible at an early age and took those responsibilities to heart.” They spent the next day the way McElhaney typically spent his Sundays — at Leimert Park participating in a community drum circle with local musicians and dancers. It was a weekend of freedom, self-expression, community and music — exactly how McElhaney would have liked it. One night, Cromwell and McElhaney were bouncing ideas off each other when she mentioned she wanted to do more with Ground Zero Performance Cafe, a performance space on campus where Cromwell is a production manager. Through conversation, they came up with the idea of an art and culture celebration called First Friday. McElhaney encouraged Cromwell to follow through with the concept and give it a shot. The monthly event began this semester at Ground Zero, and it will continue through next semester and beyond, Cromwell said. McElhaney enrolled at USC with the intent of studying afromusicology and the beginnings of both humanity and music. He was passionate about diving into his African roots and understanding the power of drumming vibrations to heal and connect people. He had one goal for his music: to change the world. “Come forward,” Lynette said. “Get yourself some help. You need to be arrested until you stop hurting yourself and hurting others.” “He is going to change the world,” Thornton professor Peter Erskine said. “He’s going to make us all fight for less instruments of violence in our communities, in our cities.” Born with rhythm About four years after he moved out, Hughes was shot in an altercation while trying to buy a gun for protection. Growing up in Oakland, McElhaney specialized in drums, particularly African drums called djembe. But at USC, he played different types of instruments, including the bongo and congas in an Afro-Cuban band. McElhaney was also the glue of his family. His mother described him as the bridge-builder, always bringing people together and keeping the family close. As Lynette’s only birth son, he grew up as the youngest of five siblings, raised alongside a half brother from his father’s first marriage and three children who Lynnette and her husband fostered as their own. Serfaty noticed his confidence right away. McElhaney transferred to USC in Fall 2017 from Cal State East Bay with more musical experience than most other freshmen. He was never afraid to do things his way, but he was also aware of his natural leadership during rehearsals. When he started practicing and preparing early, soon enough the whole class followed suit. Two days later, Lynette called for her son’s shooter to come forward at a news conference in Los Angeles after police told Lynette that they weren’t expecting the killer to turn themselves in. Lynette didn’t believe it or want it to be true. To make a contribution to the Victor McElhaney Memorial Scholarship, contact the USC Thornton Office of Advancement by emailing music.advancement@usc.edu or calling 213.740.6474. “He was very thought-provoking in normal conversation,” said Samuel Reid, a junior majoring in jazz studies and a friend of McElhaney’s. “He wasn’t really down for small talk. Small talk with him would usually get very deep.” “[Victor] bathed with, laughed with, fought with, cried with, conspired to change the world with [Torian],” Lynette said. “And he was violently taken from our family before he could even reach manhood.” “We definitely plan to continue that event in his legacy,” Cromwell said. “He shaped how those events will happen and will continue to happen. The legacy that he left behind just in that was very important.” But McElhaney’s life skipped a beat on Dec. 20, 2015, when his brother was shot and killed in Oakland. Torian Hughes had just turned 17. But more than a month since the shooting, no suspects have been identified and no arrests have been made. For most, that’s a lofty goal that is often viewed as unrealistic. It’s in the back of everyone’s minds as an ideal they’ll never admit for fear of looking naive, looking dumb. But McElhaney said it out loud. He made it known because he knew it was going to happen. As a natural extrovert, McElhaney’s specialty was starting conversations. But he couldn’t just talk about the weather. “He was born a drummer,” said Lynette, an Oakland city councilmember. last_img read more


Lamar Jackson and Louisville drain what’s left of Syracuse’s bowl hopes in 56-10 Orange loss

first_img Published on November 18, 2017 at 8:07 pm Contact: jtbloss@syr.edu | @jtbloss LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A week ago, Dino Babers asked a room full of reporters when they had last seen a quarterback perform as well as Wake Forest’s John Wolford had in his 500-yard game against Syracuse. Then Babers realized the answer was obvious and supplied it himself.“Well, it’s probably the guy we’re about to play this week, isn’t it?” he said.SU’s second-year head coach was alluding to Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, the reigning Heisman winner who on Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium led the UofL (7-4, 4-4 Atlantic Coast) in a rainy, 56-10 dissection of Syracuse (4-7, 2-5) a year after posting an SU opponent record of 610 total yards in the Carrier Dome. Jackson’s 381 total yards this time around reminded the country why Louisville ranked No. 16 before the season began. His dominance is the latest reason why, for the fourth straight season, it’s highly unlikely Syracuse will play in a bowl game.“Disappointed we couldn’t stop more things on defense,” Babers said. “Lamar is a first-round draft pick, and someone just asked me if he’s better than (former Baylor quarterback and 2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III). I want to say no, but God dang, he’s special.”While Jackson’s skills acted as the finishing blow to SU’s bowl hopes, Syracuse put itself in this position. Even the most optimistic preseason forecasts likely pegged the Louisville game as a loss. But entering the matchup against Louisville with four wins meant there was no more room to lose. SU needed a win to make next week’s game matter. Instead of having a chance to extend its seniors’ careers by earning a bowl berth, SU will send off its eldest players with yet another season-finale that means essentially nothing, and making this senior class the first to leave without playing in a bowl game since 2009.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Guys are just hurting, myself included,” senior linebacker Zaire Franklin said. “I think we will feel it all night.”Flashbacks to Louisville’s 62-28 drubbing of SU in the Carrier Dome last season rushed back immediately after the opening kickoff. In 36 seconds, Louisville ran two plays to go 80 yards for a touchdown. In response, SU senior quarterback Zack Mahoney threw an interception on Syracuse’s first offensive possession. Orange quarterbacks will now finish the season having tossed a pick on their first drive of every road game this year.Later, Jackson exited the pocket and took another chunk of SU’s hope with him. He dusted an overcommitted Evan Foster and stiff-armed a hopeless Devin M. Butler to glide into the endzone for a 43-yard score and a 14-3 lead.“Explosive plays kill you,” redshirt junior safety Rodney Williams said.The early explosions served as a notice, albeit an unnecessary one, that SU ought to respect Jackson when he runs in space. So when three Orange defenders corralled him in a similar spot on the field during the next Cardinals possession, Jackson pitched to UofL running back Reggie Bonnafon. He finished the run 33 yards later and gave Louisville a 14-3 lead. All week long, SU knew it would have to defend the same option plays it couldn’t stop last week. When the Orange didn’t, it only got uglier.A first-half weather delay made Syracuse sit on a 21-3 deficit for 43 minutes in the locker room. Redshirt Freshman Rex Culpepper replaced a benched Mahoney at quarterback. The change didn’t help. SU finished the game with 335 yards of total offense, but little to show for it. Jackson himself had more production.The offensive struggles — considering with usual starter Eric Dungey out for the second straight game with an injury — didn’t sting as much as the damage Jackson inflicted.“You can only contain him, you can’t really stop him,” Williams said. “… Even if you have the perfect call, him boxed in a one-on-one tackle, it’s still going to be tough to make that play. You can’t really practice for someone like that.”In the second quarter, Jackson slung a deep ball over the middle to a streaking Jay Smith. Smith had beaten Orange cornerback Juwan Dowels and had only SU safety Rodney Williams to beat. Williams was in decent position, right underneath Smith like he wanted to be, but not a good enough spot to do anything about the incoming ball. As soon as he turned around, Williams said, he knew the pass was perfect. Smith plucked it and cruised for a 72-yard knockout. On Louisville’s next possession, Jackson one-upped his passing precision and dropped a dime of a score into the hands of Bonnafon, the running back, on a wheel route. Syracuse’s Brandon Berry, a defensive end, attempted to cover Bonnafon on the play — the sign of a defense both depleted and defeated.After halftime, the list of Jackson highlights got too long. He juked SU senior linebacker Jonathan Thomas on a touchdown run that resembled his infamous hurdle from last year. The lead eventually grew so large that Jackson was rewarded with the warmth of a sideline poncho for the remainder of the game.It kept raining. The seats that went largely unfilled to start the game became increasingly empty. Syracuse watched as backups battled backups. A garbage-time Orange touchdown drew little reaction.That is the kind of lifeless condition one would expect when a team had its goal of earning a bowl invitation officially stamped as a failure. SU had its best start through seven games since 2011 and almost certainly won’t have a postseason game to show for it.“We wanted to compete for an ACC championship,” Williams said. “We had the opportunity and we let it slip away.”Tonight, credit Jackson. But blame Syracuse for letting his reckoning have the power to kill its season. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more


Turtle Beach partners with Astralis, team set to use Elite-Pro PC Edition headset

first_imgTurtle Beach Corporation, one of the largest headset and audio accessory makers has announced a partnership with Astralis. The deal will see Astralis use Turtle Beach’s new Elite Pro-PC Edition gaming headset and other accessories when competing in Counter-Strike Global Offensive tournaments. In addition, the new partnership reveals that members of Astralis, one of the world’s best CS:GO teams will play a key part in Turtle Beach’s future product development process — ensuring the needs of the best pro players are being met by the company’s products.  According to Dot Esports, the long-term partnership could be worth a staggering seven-figure sum. That would rank it amongst the largest deals in esports to date. It’s the second big deal in a week for Turtle Beach as they revealed sponsorship of Splyce’s console gaming teams which are amongst the most popular and successful in the world. Astralis are no strangers to big brands either. Heading over to the Major, the crest of world renowned car-maker Audi was emblazoned on their jerseys. “I can’t think of a better way to strengthen our presence in the PC gaming market and to fortify the foundation for sustained success, than by joining forces with one of the most preeminent esports organisations in the world and arming them with what’s arguably the best gaming headset available,” said Juergen Stark, CEO, Turtle Beach Corporation in the press release. He continued: “With so many console gamers, pro players and teams already enjoying the Elite Pro since its debut last year, we knew we needed to extend this offering to gamers playing on PC too. This new partnership with Astralis continues to show that the best gamers in the world choose to work with Turtle Beach, and not only are we excited to jointly debut our new Elite Pro – PC Edition together, but we’re looking forward to working with them to bring even more groundbreaking gaming headsets to the PC space in the future.”“Whether it’s about facilities, equipment, training or events, at RFRSH we’re always working to achieve the optimum and to improve further – and this was a key mindset as we were looking to optimize the teams’ and players’ audio equipment,” said Jordi Roig, Chief Commercial Officer, RFRSH Entertainment – Astralis’ management firm. “We were looking for a company that was not only dedicated to excellent performance, but one that would also be a true partner in every sense of the term, and after an exhaustive search for a new audio partner for Astralis, we’re very pleased to welcome Turtle Beach to the team. The Astralis players and staff have tested the Elite Pro equipment extensively, and we truly believe, together with Turtle Beach, Astralis will become a major part of creating a new standard of PC audio products.”Esports Insider says: Huge deal for both Astralis and Turtle Beach if the figures are to be believed. Turtle Beach have traditionally been very well known in the console area but with this sponsorship it won’t be long before everyone’s rocking Turtle Beach peripherals instead.last_img read more