Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tomas Compian

PACIFIC OCEAN – The air is wet and heavy in USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) forecastle, which is not a likely place to find classical music. Yet sometimes age-old notes hang in the air as Sailors paint bulkheads and handle line.

This is where you will find Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Jakob Schmidt, a man of stocky stature. His build is geared more toward picking up and putting down very heavy things; someone might not realize he appreciates the finer things in life. He might seem more comfortable with an electric guitar or a drum set, but his musical instrument of choice is the violin. He plays classical and frontier-style music.

“I’ve always liked pretty technical, classical music to play, which is weird because I am a metalhead,” said Schmidt. “The violin is something that not many people play; that’s why I chose it.”

Schmidt has played the violin since middle school, and he plays it well, especially with one hand missing a finger.

Before his junior year of high school, Schmidt was headed to the basketball court. An avid player, he could slam-dunk a basketball. It was this feat that caused him to lose his finger, and in turn, his ability to play the violin.

“My ring finger got caught in the net and the … hoop broke off the ground and took me with it,” said Schmidt. “The rim landed on my finger and smashed the end of it off.”

With a small chuckle and a grimace he brings up his hand showing his ring finger which is smaller than normal and ends with a rough callus built up where his fingernail should be.

Schmidt sold his top-of-the-line violin and headed to the weight room. With little-to-no feeling in his finger and constant pain in his hand, he filled the next five years of his life with work and weight training.

Recently, the pain subsided. This was a green light for Schmidt. He went out and bought an inexpensive violin, doctored it up a bit with new strings, tuner sets and began playing again.

“I have always been musically inclined,” said Schmidt. “I can jump on a piano and make music come out of it. I definitely prefer playing violin, and I already have roots in it, so I decided to pick that up again.”

The injury is still troublesome. Because the muscle memory that he developed with a fully functional hand still resides, he has to constantly correct where his finger should be on the violin. Even with the frustration of relearning to play, playing the violin is more than worth it for Schmidt. He uses it to decompress from the daily grind, and it keeps him busy instead of playing video games.

“I learned patience,” said Schmidt. “Stick it out, and take care of what you can. Be patient.”

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