LAWRENCE — Berklee College of Music, the world's largest institution for independent music, has a reputation for being a highly competitive school that accepts only the most qualified of musicians into its programs of study.
Eduardo "Eddy" Caimares, a Lawrence teenager and YMCA Music Clubhouse student, measures up to the demanding standard. A Summer Youth Scholarship for Talent and Excellence in Music (SYSTEM 5) recipient, the teen was accepted into the college's five-week summer performance program.
The award is a full scholarship that is annually distributed to about eight to 15 students in the country who display exceptional musical talent and potential. Despite these impressive facts, Caimares, the first Clubhouse student to receive the award, remains humble.
"I don't necessarily consider myself to be talented," said the teen, who won the award for his extraordinary abilities on the guitar. "I'm always surprised when I attract an audience. Sometimes at the Clubhouse, I'll start playing alone and when I look up, I'll just see these faces staring at me in awe. It's really inspirational."
Caimares' prestigious position at the summer program sets an example for the other students at the Clubhouse and serves as a helpful connection to Berklee. Clubhouse Director David Bickel, an alumnus of Berklee, is a useful resource for those seeking a musical future.
However, like Caimares, the director maintains a modest demeanor.
"Although I'd love to be able to say that I played a huge role in Eddy's accomplishment," said Bickel, "I really didn't. His talent is all his own doing. I'm just here to offer moral support."
"Without David," said Caimares as he quietly strummed a white Ibanez affectionately nicknamed "Queen," "I wouldn't have known about this opportunity in the first place."
Bickel also drove him to the audition, wrote a strong recommendation, and acted as a mentor to the student.
Said Bickel, "What sets Eddy apart from the other students is his creativity and determination. And he's also insanely humble."
With only three years of experience with the instrument, Caimares has impressed his listeners with how quickly he has advanced. And his musical talent doesn't stop there. In addition to his impeccable abilities on the guitar, he also plays drums, bass and even sings. His span of musical talent makes him a qualified student for Berklee's prestigious program.
According to the Berklee Web site, the program's attendees "play in ensembles, develop improvisational and reading skills, improve their technique in weekly private lessons, and enjoy lectures and demonstrations by well-known faculty and visiting artists." Recipients of the scholarship put on a concert at the program's end.
As the mid-August starting date approaches, Caimares admits that he feels "a little nervous." A great deal of value is placed on the position, as it could potentially lead to something bigger. His acceptance into the scholars program could lead to his acceptance to the college.
"To put it simply," said Bickel, "Berklee's summer program is like Major League Baseball, and the YMCA's Music Clubhouse is like Little League."
Now that Caimares has advanced from the Clubhouse and into the "big league," he has the potential to grow even bigger.
So what's in the cards for the next three years?
"College," Caimares modestly stated, "where I'll be studying business. I want something to fall back on if music doesn't work out."