How Music Helped Save a Life

Connor+VanEpps+works+on+a+song+in+the+music+room+at+WHS.
Back to Article
Back to Article

How Music Helped Save a Life

Connor VanEpps works on a song in the music room at WHS.

Connor VanEpps works on a song in the music room at WHS.

Kascey Relfe

Connor VanEpps works on a song in the music room at WHS.

Kascey Relfe

Kascey Relfe

Connor VanEpps works on a song in the music room at WHS.

Nathan Currier, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Hey Jude, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better.”

Those famous words were sung by Paul Mccartney in the song, Hey Jude. Even though the song was made over 47 years ago, it still has a message about life that’s relevant. You make the best of it that you possibly can, no matter how bad it can be. Always keep moving and striving in the face of impossible odds, and that’s what one Weedsport student did… Connor VanEpps.

Some might know Connor’s history, and some might not. Connor was born into a very unstable home life, one which still follows him to this very day. The instability came from a violent home life of abuse in his early childhood (1st to 6th grade) from his mother. Being a child and having one of your own parents constantly emotionally, mentally, and physically abuse you on a daily basis, no matter the circumstance, is hard on anyone. “You get this edge about you,” VanEpps said. “Your own mother is pushing you away, so you begin to think that everyone else is. You start to become anti-social, and begin to stay to yourself.”

His mother’s downfall into this abusive relationship was alcohol and drugs, two things which used improperly can destroy families and lives.

While discussing his past, Connor mentioned how she’d go on drunken rampages, physically assaulting him and his sister when they were both at an early age. One of his stories discussed how his front tooth was pushed back when his mother threw a broom at his face, causing it to smash him in the jaw and displace his teeth. Or, how she neglected him from proper medical care whenever he got sick, causing him to develop a severe string of ear infections that eventually led to partial deafness in his left ear. “On a day to day basis, I have trouble hearing people from across the room, and I don’t think I can hear as well as I want to,” VanEpps said. “If I’m in a crowded room I can’t understand someone from a distance. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish notes in music.”

His mother’s abuse even went so far that one night she took both he and his sister out for a ride, and she was so drunk that she was not only putting other cars and pedestrians in danger but she passed out at the wheel of the car, leaving them all stranded. “We were stuck at the side of the road at night with no help or contact from anyone, and my mother was sprawled out over the wheel, passed out from severe intoxication and borderline alcohol poisoning,” VanEpps said. These are just a few of many examples, as he could’ve gone on for hours on what had happened.

For many years after, Connor’s father and mother were locked in a custody battle. He and his sister were fearful of their very lives if they told anyone what was going on behind closed doors. They worried that they themselves or their family might be harmed if talking about anything. So the years of torment dragged on.

The court took Connor and his sister out of the household, deeming his mother unfit to take care of her children. This removal left Connor’s father in full custody of his children.

Connor wasn’t going to lie when he spoke during the interview, he fell into a deep depression and constant worry over his past. Depression is always a serious matter, especially when developed at a young age with lasting impact. Anyone going through years of Hell would eventually reach a breaking point. At one point during all the proceedings and custody trails, Connor contemplated suicide. “I was taking a lot of what was happening with my mother personally,” VanEpps said. “If your mother is pushing you away, then what stops anyone else from doing the same.”

But the human spirit, no matter how faint it might be, survives. The will to live is too great, and he thought about all his friends and the family he loved that he would leave behind. He gained the strength and courage that a man will gain when all else fails. Continuing forward, he found the one thing that carried him out of the void that engulfed him. And that… was music.

Connor’s first ever song that inspired him to learn about music was, “Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da” by The Beatles. The meaning behind the song gave Connor the inspiration of, “Life goes on.” He would sit in his room for hours listening to The Beatles and all their records, researching and playing their songs. He tried to replicate their feel and sound as much as possible. He still gives them credit for being the most inspirational band in his life, and gives them credit for his entire involvement in music.

Later on, he got his first guitar and piano. He spent hours learning how to play guitar, teaching himself how to play. And for his piano, he sat on it going crazy, letting out his frustration through healthy means of playing an instrument, instead of other ways. “This was it,” he thought. “This is what I want to do.”

When entering his 6th grade year, he met Brian Franco (his current music teacher). Mr. Franco saw something in Connor that he didn’t see in a lot of other people. He found something special in him, and took all the talent and potential Connor had and fine tuned it to the best of his ability.

Connor was on the path he always dreamed of, and now came the time to take his future into his hands. He assembled a group of talented individuals, that also happen to be his best friends and they started their band called Have You Heard?. The band consists of Weedsport’s Alec Barner and Eric Frank, and Nick Bachta who attends Southern Cayuga. Alec has been one of his best friends, but Connor mentioned important things about the other band members as well.

When asking him to further explain, he focused on Eric. He never really knew Eric that well and had only spoken to him briefly at points throughout school until one day when they were both in the Middle School Jazz Band. Since then, they became more than just friends, but like, “brothers.”

“I have never seen such an exceptionally gifted guitarist with so much potential and talent in my life,” VanEpps said about Eric. Connor knew they’d have a future where they would both being playing together in a band.

As for Nick, he met him when he was looking for a new drummer. Most of the drummers previously in Have You Heard? had never really fit quite right, or just couldn’t be available due to their schedules. When Connor met Nick one day, buying a speaker system, they conversed and became friends. Soon after they came into contact with one another they  decided, “I think it’d be cool if you could be part of our band.” And so he did.

Have You Heard? started playing more frequently, gaining more popularity with each passing performance. Their biggest breakthrough happened over the summer of 2015 at the Auburn SPCA benefit. Nick’s father plays in the band, Prison City Rockers. They thought it’d be a good idea for Connor’s band to open up for them. He and his friends jumped at the opportunity, as this was the time for them to shine.

In Connor’s words about the event, “I’ve never heard my band come together like that before.” It was one of the best performances we’ve ever had, with a very large turnout. The crowd was into the music and sang along, our hardware quality was perfect, everything had come together. He reached the point where he wanted his band to be, and they’ve gained local renown and fame for it, even making it to the newspaper and on multiple local news sites.

Connor doesn’t know exactly what the future holds for him, or his friends but he does know this… “Whether you’re a little flute in an ensemble, or you’re the star role, it’s such a passionate… and loving society of people, no matter what music. Death Metal, Rock… even a trumpet solo for God’s sake. You should try it no matter what, and I finally found myself and found my happiness in life.”

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email