DALLAS — Lydia Umlauf, a violinist in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, was reading in bed at 2 a.m. Monday when she saw water gushing under the door of her loft apartment in southern Dallas, by Fair Park.
She tried opening the door, but it wouldn’t budge, blocked by the rushing water.
She then stashed her iPad and computer in a bag and grabbed her violin, which she called “the most important thing.”
It was made in 1922 by Carl Becker Sr., an American luthier, or maker of stringed instruments. Umlauf recently got it in Chicago. She was drawn to it because of its “beautiful warm tone,” the ease with which she can play it and its ability to project, even at soft dynamics.
With her violin safely in its case, Umlauf, 30, escaped through a window and half swam, half floated across the flooded parking lot. She held her violin above her head to protect it.
Umlauf then climbed on top of a floating SUV and called for help. Her neighbors heard her and opened their window to let her in. Umlauf tossed her violin to one of her neighbors and then went through the window as well.
When the water receded enough that Umlauf could return to her apartment, she discovered it was “completely trashed.” Dirty water had soaked her mattress, sofas and much of the wooden furniture made by her dad, including a coffee table and a desk. Books, music scores and records were scattered on the floor, floating in a few inches of water.
On top of the kitchen stove was a pan full of scrambled eggs that Umlauf made for herself before reading in bed. It was untouched by the 4 feet of water that had flooded her apartment.
She and her friends later salvaged many of her belongings, including camera gear, Stetson hats and some of her clothes. The building is now closed for health and safety reasons.
“It was a very harrowing situation,” said Umlauf, who joined the DSO’s second violin section in 2014. “Honestly, the scariest part was being stuck in the house with it flooding water really quickly. I didn’t know how high it was going to go, if I would ever be able to get out if it got higher.”
Umlauf is staying with friends for now, and expects to need to look for a new place.
“I don’t think those places are going to be livable,” she said. “They were destroyed. Mine was not even as bad as some of the other ones.”
Most importantly for Umlauf, though, her violin is perfectly fine.