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Closing The Loop: George Eckenrode

Warren Miller

George Eckenrode grew up expecting to be a professional musician, and nothing else. "Ever since the third grade, I played trumpet in a band. I went to a music-oriented high school, and then was accepted into the Juilliard School of Music in New York. I played in everything from polka bands to rock bands, including the O'Jays, and even played with John Lennon. I thought I had it made as a musician!"

George and his wife moved to the Catskill mountains resort area, north of New York City, where he worked as a musician for 12 years. "It was a musician's paradise, the Catskills."

But the area's resorts declined, and quickly. George had already started to do other work during the day. "Days were open, since I played nights. While working as an electrician, I fell off a scaffolding and seriously hurt my back. I couldn't play music at night, so I went during the day to the college."

George Eckenrode learned computer programming, which he does today. He says that it's a surprising fit for someone who had lived and breathed music. "The biggest parallel would be that a well-designed program and a well-designed piece of music are the same. All the parts fit together to become one."

George worked for a computer services contractor, and was offered a job at a financial institution in Jacksonville, where one of his two daughters was living. That, too, was a fit. "My second daughter followed us down here, so I have four grandchildren and two daughters living near us." 

About that time, an incident in the office building where he worked prompted George to improve his health. "I was in horrible shape. One day I had to climb two flights of stairs because the elevator was broken. I had to sit in a chair and recover, and I knew I had to do something. So I started going to the Y near the building. I began looking in at the 'spinning room,' and thought, 'now there's a challenge'."

George began "spinning," as riding a stationary bike is called. "Everything hurt, but I knew that it would get my heart back in shape. I lost 100 pounds in six months. Now, my wife and I have two spinning bikes in a room. I get up at five o'clock and ride for a half hour every morning."

In fact, George Eckenrode is a little fanatical about everything he does, including things — like playing music and computer programming — that don't seem to have much in common. "That's 100% true! But I really enjoy life and all the pieces of it. I find that solving analytical problems is just the greatest for me. It's a challenge, and I actually wake up happy to come to this job I'm doing now. If something interests me, I'll go for it, and find out what makes it tick, and how to make the most of it."

Warren Miller is a writer and financial executive who lives near St. Augustine, Florida.