Eric German has the world by the tail and it’s evident in his warm, constant smile. He has a job that he loves at a tech company in Boston, a thriving music career, a newly purchased condo, a beautiful, talented wife and a baby boy on the way.
Life is good, but it wasn’t always that way. Eric is the only child born to Luz Rodriguez (GLTS class of ’81) and Freddy German. Luz and Freddy each came from large families that immigrated to the U.S.; Luz from Puerto Rico and Freddy from the Dominican Republic. Freddy’s family settled in the South Bronx before moving to Lawrence when he was 18. The two met through mutual friends.
“They were together for eighteen years. My childhood was tough because they were on and off,” German explains. “When I was in fourth or fifth grade they went through the divorce. It was really, really tough because I was very close to my dad.”
Eric’s mom worked long hours at Hewlett Packard taking as much overtime as she could. But, after the divorce they were forced to move to a new neighborhood which meant new adjustments. “My mom has basically been a single parent since I was ten on…my dad was subsequently in and out of the picture.”
Luckily, Eric’s aunt had an available apartment on the first floor of her three decker, she lived on the second floor and his grandfather lived on the third. “That helped the transition,” he explained. “My mom and I slept on the same bed until I started high school, it was a while before we even got a kitchen table. But my aunt and my grandfather always made sure we had enough to eat.”
“My mom was super strict,” he laughs. “I didn’t have many good role models – my mom was my role model. She made sure I stayed busy and stayed out of trouble.” The two things that helped him, he says, were sports and music.
“My family saw that I was interested in music very early on. I’d sing and would use ping pong paddles and forks to make music and they figured they better buy me some drums. They bought me timbales.” Eric’s Uncle, Edwin Rodriguez (GLTS class of ’82) was a professional percussionist and would come to the home often and give Eric lessons. “He’d teach me something new and when he’d come back he’d be surprised at how quickly I learned it.”
When it came time to go to high school there was really no choice. “My mom graduated from Distributive Ed and my Uncle Edwin from CAD. So my Mom was determined that I was going to go there too.”
Any nervousness German might have felt that first day was eased by the sheer number of relatives attending GLTS at the time. “There was my cousin Jocelyn Ortiz (’04), and my cousins Kelvin (’02) and Luis (01) Rodriguez. Having them there made my transition a lot easier. We’re a big family of Reggies,” he laughed.
German went through the exploratory process and chose CAD as his shop based on his Uncle Edwin’s recommendation. School had been a struggle for him up to that point. “I had trouble when I was at the Leonard, had trouble staying focused, had trouble with my schoolwork. I just had a rough time getting through the divorce. When I went to GLTS I still wasn’t doing that great, but I wasn’t doing that poorly. But I really wanted to play sports and in order to do that I had to get good grades. So the sports really helped me focus.”
German played basketball in the winter and in the spring he played baseball for Coach Loughlin. “He was awesome, he put me in every game. That team was so talented and so deep. Coach asked me where I wanted to play and I said I didn’t care – put me in wherever you want. I played every position except pitcher and catcher. Coach said that he knew he could put me in anywhere and I’d get the job done,” he smiled.
Meanwhile, in shop class German discovered that he had a talent for CAD, a fact pointed out to him often by one of his favorite teachers, Mr. Bowers. “He gave me a lot of motivation. He always told me that I could accomplish anything I wanted, that I was a smart kid and he’d tell me how the younger kids looked up to me.”
And then there was Mr. Bryson. “He was super strict and super hard. But it was good. Sometimes we’d go into class and would be fooling around and Bryson immediately put a stop to it. He’d tell us that we had to pay attention and we had to focus on our future. He always told us we could accomplish anything if we focused. And it was good because those talks were needed, some of us, not just myself, were going through some really tough things. He was really helpful.”
They weren’t the only two keeping an eye on young German. “There were a lot of GLTS staff who knew my family there so there were a lot of people watching me. Victor Martinez would see me in the hallways and call out ‘Rodriguez!’ and I’d say ‘I’m a German’ and he’d say ‘You’re a Rodriguez too, I know your whole family. Make sure you’re behaving!’” Eric laughed.
After sophomore year, Eric broke both his wrists in a pickup basketball game and that put an end to his sports career. As soon as he turned 16 he took a job at D’angelos so that he could help his mother out. He began his co-op job senior year at Microwave Development Corp. as a CNC Machinist and there was always the music.
“When I was a kid I’d picture myself getting off a stage and everyone asking for my autograph and I’d take my mom’s CDs and I’d sign them with my name,” he laughed. “All my mom’s CDs have my signature all over them.”
Throughout high school Eric played in several bands. “We played at festivals, birthdays, weddings. But I always talked about having my own band.”
When Eric graduated from GLTS he hoped for a full time job at MDC but soon learned that the co-op job was only a co-op job and not permanent. “I told my mom I was going back to D’angelos and she said ‘no you’re not, you’re going to college!’ And I said ‘but you didn’t go’ and she replied ‘Exactly!’” German enrolled at Middlesex Community College in their CAD program.
“It was great because GLTS had really prepared me, there were classes like theory and drafting that they gave me credits for because I had already done them. It helped save money! After two years in the CAD program, the musician in me started thinking what a music degree would look like…So I stayed at Middlesex and enrolled in the Music Performance program.”
He had two degrees under his belt but still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He was good at CAD but not sure about spending a life doing it. He loved music but wasn’t sure he wanted to depend on it for a livelihood. “I was stuck. So I took a semester off and it was the worst thing I could have done. That one semester turned into two years.”
Eric continued working in the tech sector and he continued playing timbales, but he knew he was coasting. One day, Eric went to see his father and complained about another series of layoffs he’d gone just gone through. Freddy told him to go back to school. “They might be able to take your job away from you, but no one can take your education away from you,” he told his son.
Eric enrolled in the business program and Mt. Washington College. He was still living at home, helping his mom out with bills, working full time at Solectria Renewables in Lawrence and going to college in New Hampshire at night. He did that for four years.
“I got my Bachelors in Business Management. The words that my dad said really stuck with me. And the things that Mr. Bowers would say to me – the way the teachers at GLTS always motivated me – you can accomplish anything you want, you’re smart, you’re a good kid. Those things always stuck with me.”
And it was also time to pursue his other dream – his own band. He decided to re-record a song originally released by one of his mother’s relatives in Puerto Rico with a new sound and a new arrangement. He finished it and he loved the process and began creating an album of salsa music.
Around the same time a friend had called and asked if Eric could put a band together for an upcoming event. Eric agreed, after all he’d been freelancing in the music scene for years, had developed relationships with professors at Berklee College of Music and knew plenty of musicians.
“Eric German and His Orchestra” was born! “I remember our first gig – it was July 28, 2016 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Calderwood Hall. A twelve piece band in the museum and we were soooo loud!” he laughed. “They asked us to come back twice since then.”
Word quickly spread to the point where the band has bookings almost every weekend. This October, Eric German and His Orchestra will be making their third appearance at Octoberfest at the Sam Adams Brewery in Boston.
It was also through his music that he met his wife Carolynn (Loyo) German. She had just won a beauty contest at a festival that he was playing when they caught each other’s eye. But it would be years before Eric had the nerve to approach her. They found themselves at another festival in Boston, Eric as a musician and Carolynn as a reporter for Telemundo. They struck up a conversation and stayed in touch after that but Eric thought she was just being nice. “I was shy and timid and she was so beautiful and amazing and I didn’t think she could be interested in me.” Interested she was.
German spends his daylight hours as a Technical Support Engineer at Exari Systems, a software company, in Boston. “The company is growing tremendously, my boss is awesome and they’re all about family first.” That makes it a perfect fit for Eric and his now wife, Carolynn, since they’re expecting their first child this winter.
His advice to this year’s incoming freshmen would be this… “Enjoy the moments. Enjoy your four years because it goes by so fast. Take advantage of every class and give it your 100% effort each day. No matter what you’re going through, you can do it,” Eric said.
“I loved high school, even with what was going on with my home life, I loved it at GLTS and it went by sooo fast. I truly miss it, I really do.”
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