Student guitarist Rick Carrizales is loving the city where he has lived since September and is wistful about his study abroad semester ending soon. “I can’t believe this whole thing is ending in two weeks,” he said yesterday while we walked the streets surrounding the Nakas school. An El Paso, Texas native who was lit up by music in a serious way when he first heard Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rick talks about the Athens trip as providing about a 50/50 benefit, half music and half cultural and personal.
“I’ve grown more as a musician this semester than the whole time at Berklee,” he said. The teachers are so laid-back. They ask me what I want to learn, rather than making me stick so closely to a system.”
And he’s made a lot of friends here, including two Athens musicians—two incredibly nice young men both named Stelios—who don’t attend Nakas, but that he has jammed with during the semester. They all ended last night together with a visit to a local joint, the Flower Bar.
And he’s also found his own guitar repairman here. One day, he and fellow Berklee-ite Allee Futterer were wandering around the Nakas neighborhood when they stumbled upon a small guitar shop. They went in, he and the shop owner, Markos Galantis, jammed some, and then Markos agreed to repair a fret problem on Rick’s white Stratocaster. . . at a very low price.
“He keeps saying he’s not going to charge me anything, but I’m going to make him take some money,” said Rick, adding that one shop where he inquired told him it would cost about 50 euros. “That’s just the way people are here. Incredibly friendly and kind and generous.”
It was one busy day at Nakas for the Berklee students—no vacation, this study abroad journey. Everyone was in class in the morning for an intense Greek language review. Then, Ben, Jen, and Rick sprinted across the street for souvlaki, which they consumed while quizzing each other on questions they were likely to be dealing with on a final exam in their next course—Crossroads, a course focusing on Greek music’s odd time signatures.
From the middle of the afternoon all the way through to night time, most of the Berklee crew worked on projects, hit the practice room, or went to private lessons. Voice principal Laura Hoover was proud as all get-out of a finger blister she acquired that day, after a lengthy rehearsal on harp of a Joanna Newsom tune she’ll perform at a recital next week.
The harp is a new instrument for Laura, and she has picked it up quickly, accompanying herself as if she had been playing it for years. It was just another of many examples of how these musicians have expanded their vision here. For Rick, it even goes deeper. “I was starting to feel really stressed out in Boston. I’m a lot more confident here. Here, I’ve learned to relax and let go of things. I’m just more accepting of where I’m at. Everything is okay. It’s like what the Greeks always say, ‘Life is beautiful.’”
Read more about Berklee students in Athens this fall: