Maumee junior Malik Khalfani can master a movement by Mozart with his violin and then conquer a cross country course with his fluid stride.
With equal passion and determination, Khalfani has become not only an accomplished runner but also an extremely talented violinist.
Khalfani has been named the violin concertmaster of the District I orchestra for the last four years. He has earned first chair in the district orchestra twice in junior high and also as a freshman and sophomore.
Last Saturday, Khalfani helped lead the Panthers to a second-place team finish at the Chet Sullwold Invitational at St. Francis. Khalfani placed 13th with a time of 17 minutes, 14 seconds on the 5,000-meter course.
The junior already composes his own music.
“With the violin, you train by yourself and you practice by yourself. And it can be looked at as an individual thing,” Khalfani said. “You can play with orchestras or play a recital by yourself. I've played with the best 40 violinists in the state.
“In cross country you can do good by yourself but the main goal is to make the team good. When you play with an orchestra it's not about you, it's about making the orchestra sound good.”
Maumee coach Craig Snyder, who is in his second season with the Panthers, said he noticed Khalfani’s potential during the second day of practice last fall.
“I was running behind him, and I was watching his foot strike and his turnover. I said to him as he was running, ‘You have All-Ohio written all over you,’ ” Snyder said. “I could just tell by how fluid he was and how easy it was for him to run. At that time I didn’t know about his talents as a violinist.”
Khalfani already was a concertmaster of the Toledo Junior Youth Orchestra as a seventh and eighth-grader. He made his conducting debut when he was 14.
Molly Stuckey, Khalfani’s music teacher at Maumee, said he is an exceptional student.
“Malik has a rare combination of natural talent, discipline, passion, and desire to achieve his greatest musical potential,” Stuckey said. “Besides being one of the most talented students I have had the pleasure to teach, he is also the hardest working.”
Khalfani moved up to the Toledo Symphony Youth Orchestra and was awarded concertmaster as a sophomore. Last fall, Khalfani placed eighth at a state violin competition, earning a spot with the Ohio all-state orchestra.
Snyder said he saw Khalfani perform for the first time last Sunday.
“It was incredible,” Snyder said. “It was an amazing hour with no music in front of him. He played classical music. One stretch went on for 20 minutes that just came out of his mind. He was playing a piece he composed himself. You know this is something that is not an academic exercise. You know this comes right out of his heart to watch him play.”
Khalfani said running provides him with discipline and a hard-work ethic.
“That has helped me with the violin as well,” he said.
He also said he has had to work much harder to become a better runner than a violinist.
“I wasn’t ever really bad at running. I was average, and I’ve gotten progressively better by working at it,” he said.
Khalfani placed 26th at the Norm Bray Invitational at Walsh Park in Fremont to start the season, with a time of 17:38. He was second among all juniors in the Runnin’ with the Devils race at Springfield with a time of 17:47. At the Tiffin Carnival, one of the nation’s biggest races, he finished among the top 100 in the top division with a time of 17:21.
He ran a personal-best 17:04 last season at the Northern Lakes League meet.
“Overall I want to run a sub-16 and hope to make it to the state race,” Khalfani said.
Snyder said Khalfani’s desire has rubbed off on his teammates.
“He has a passion for his running and his music. He is internally motivated. That's a coach’s dream. That comes from within and he never has to be pushed,” Snyder said. “That is contagious. My other kids have caught that. And it’s manifesting this season. They are like brothers. So it's not individualistic. It causes them to expect much out of one another.”
Khalfani said he likes being with people that have similar interests. He also competes in track, running the 800 and 1600 meters, as well as the 3200 relay.
“We all want to share that one thing,” he said. “And that’s running in cross country, and in orchestra that’s to play music.”
The first string instrument Khalfani played was the viola when he was in the fourth grade. He picked up the violin the next year and played both instruments for two years.
“No one in my family is musical whatsoever,” he said. “So when they asked everybody in the fourth grade to try out an instrument I had some trouble. But I didn’t have the difficulties that my friends were going through. I just always was a step above. It’s just gotten bigger and bigger and multiplied with what I can do.
“I really just like sharing my music and my talents with other people and letting them know this is what I love to do. I like hearing them say they love listening to me.”
Stuckey said it has been rewarding to watch Khalfani develop. Khalfani has flourished under his mentor, Vasile Beluska, a professor at Bowling Green State University.
“I feel the sky is the limit for Malik, and he certainly has a future in music,” Stuckey said.
As a sophomore Khalfani was eighth chair, first violin in the state orchestra. He said tryouts are in two weeks.
Khalfani said he wants to go to a Conservatory and major in violin performance. His dreams are to one day be a conductor and compose his own music.
“I like being a conductor because you control a lot more,” he said. “It's a still a team sport. You’re more like the coach.”
He started running cross country in the eighth grade.
“I really liked it,” he said. “Running is not just about running a hard work out and being done. You have to eat right. You have to have the right state of mind.
"It’s the same thing with the violin. You have to have the right state of mind. You have to go home and practice for two hours. You have to practice the right things and play with the right organizations and run with the right people.
“I don’t feel there is a reason to try something and not do the best you can possibly do. I need to win whether that's a race or becoming first in the state orchestra. I want to set goals and hit them.”
Contact Mark Monroe at
419-724-6354, or on