My Semester in Athens
My semester abroad in Greece was a very positive and absolutely amazing experience. Musically, getting to learn how to play traditional Greek violin dance music from all over the country's vast regions with an incredible teacher at Nakas was worth the entire trip for me!
My traditional teacher, Georgos Marinakis, was not just a highly talented violinist but also incredibly knowledgeable in every piece he had ever learned. He could tell me the exact region or island it was from, what instrument had originally played it, what kind of dance went with the piece, and at what kind of place it would be played. I learned a great deal from him.
There were also other traditional teachers who were really good. I liked Petros, the percussion teacher, because he put so much energy into all of his music and musical experiences. I learned many Greek rhythms from him and also was able to learn how to play some percussion instruments at a decent level. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to learn how to play the traditional instrument the bouzouki in a private lesson. We were able to rent the instrument for the entire semester!
There were so many people I met who were all so kind and inviting. It was very nice to be able to meet the other students at Nakas even though it took a little while to be comfortable hanging out downstairs rather than in our break room. I felt as though sometimes our break room was keeping us from really being social with the other students. But at the same time, it was very nice to have a room to store our stuff in and to practice in when nobody was using it.
The field trips with our history class to Olympia and Delphi were really wonderful. Being able to see the Peloponnese and the mountains was perfect. Enjoying traditional Greek meals was also a highlight on the trips. The sites that John showed us and the knowledge he imparted were really nice. In particular, I really enjoyed going to the Acropolis with him because he explained so much of the history in great detail.
Leonidas [Arniakos] is a wonderful dean. It was so great to get to know him. He went out of his way to make sure we were happy. He would take time out of his busy day to sit down and have coffee with us or see us in his office whenever we wanted to talk to him. When my mother came, she was very interested in seeing traditional Greek folk dancing. Because it was Lent, there were no shows or dance events at that time. So he organized for her to go see a group practice.
Costas [Baltazanis, artistic director, alumnus `89] also was very helpful and kind. When my sister came to visit, we played for him and he asked us if we wanted to put on a concert in the Nakas main lobby. We put on a concert the next evening. It was really fun and very nice. They were all so helpful!
One of my favorite things about Greece was going for coffee. I went almost every day with people I met at Nakas or people from Berklee. It was just so nice to relax and converse, and play chess or Uno every day. I had some of the best hot chocolate at this wonderful coffee shop called The Bike. The Bike also happened to be right down the street from the best gyros place, I think, in Athens.
My time in Greece was really wonderful and I am so happy I had the opportunity to go there! It was the most amazing experience I could ever ask for and I definitely want to go back.