Adrik Cristobal: sterling classical guitarist  grapples with dyslexia, adhD

Adrian O. Cristobal, known to the world as Adrik Cristobal, is an accomplished classical guitarist whose journey is divisively marked by both triumphs and challenges.

Early on, Adrik’s life was set on a musical trajectory. He embarked on his odyssey with the violin at the tender age of five. However, it was the allure of another instrument that truly captured his heart. By the time he turned nine, he happily switched, setting the stage for a lifelong love affair with the guitar.

With Francisco Bernier (center) and fellow students after a concert in Cordoba, Spain in 2016
Student Adrik’s first day in Seville, Spain in 2014

Adrik’s route was not without its unique trials. He bravely shared that he grapples with dyslexia and ADHD, two conditions that have profoundly influenced his academic pursuits, his melodic endeavors and his personal life. Yet, Adrik views these tests as opportunities for growth. “I’d like to think there are more ups than downs with having dyslexia and ADHD,” he declared.

Despite the odds stacked against his favor, Adrik’s passion for music burned brightly. He chose a less conventional educational ladder, attending Wordlab, a school for dyslexics founded by his mom and his godmother, during his formative years. Later, he pursued his studies at La Salle Green Hills and completed his education through the Penn Foster homeschool program.

The Guitar Class of Seville in 2018

At the University of the Philippines College of Music, he was under the tutelage of Lester Demetillo. But his quest for excellence eventually led him to Europe, where he had the privilege of studying with some of the globe’s foremost guitar maestros.

The performer at the Manila Guitar Festival in 2017

He ventured into a conservatory in Seville, Spain, where he attained his Bachelor’s degree under the wing of the Spanish guitar legend, Francisco Bernier. He proceeded to complete his master’s degree at the Maastricht Academy of Music, locally known as the Conservatorium Maastricht, in the Netherlands, mentored by yet another incredible virtuoso, Carlo Marchione of Italy.

In the midst of his academics, Adrik’s unwavering dedication shone through. His mother once remarked, “Musicians may be the only ones who know what they’re meant to be from the start.” Adrik’s time abroad wasn’t merely about studying under different professors — it was but a bold step towards becoming a truly exceptional guitarist. He sought to immerse himself in a sea of talent, refusing to settle for being a big fish in a small pond.

Family photo at his Seville Graduation in 2018

In addition to his melodious path, Adrik was illuminated by esteemed cinematographer Nap Jamir, who honed his skills in video production and gave him a deeper appreciation for the broader realm of art.

One of Adrik’s most notable endeavors is the PIMA Guitar Quartet, also known as PIMAGQ. Comprising Monching Carpio, Iqui Vinculado, Patrick Roxas and Adrik Cristobal, this tetrad represents a harmonious union of four close friends and established musicians.

Spending time with Lester Demetillo in Maastricht, The Netherlands, 2019

The Guitar Friends and the Yuchengco Museum are their production partners. The team is further enriched by the invaluable contribution of Roneil Santos, who handles their documentation.

For influences, they span beyond the realm of classical guitar. Adrik draws inspiration from luminaries like Shin-Ichi Fukuda, a Japanese guitarist who placed Asia on the map with his unparalleled artistry.

His admiration for the fabled rock band KISS, particularly members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, stems from their selfless devotion to the band and their long-term vision. He finds parallels in basketball through Scottie Pippen, a Chicago Bulls star who excelled both individually and as a team player alongside the one and only Michael Jordan.

(L-R) The PIMA Guitar Quartet: Patrick Roxas, Iqui Vinculado, Monching Carpio, Adrik Cristobal, with Roneil Santos

Adrik’s creative hero, Vince McMahon, the mastermind behind the wrestling brand WWE, epitomizes relentless innovation and growth, a testament to his genius, especially given their shared experience of dyslexia.

The up-and-coming musician with legendary Japanese Guitarist Shin-Ichi Fukuda, 2023

Looking into the future, Adrik and the PIMAGQ have ambitious plans. They aim to host thematic concerts every quarter, with a performance this October for International Mental Health Month, shedding light on composers who grappled with such issues.

Cristobal (center) receives the Ani Ng Dangal Award with NCCA officials

Their beneficiary, the Family Wellness Center Foundation Inc., exemplifies their commitment to raising awareness about a cause close to Adrik’s heart, as he too has faced difficulties on this front.

Let us hear more about Adrik’s foray in the world of music:


On his guitars

I mainly use three guitars — two were custom made by Japanese master builders Yuichi Imai and Masaki Sakurai, and the honor of owning one of the last made by Filipino maker Armando Derecho.

European immersion

I would say Marco Tamayo and Francisco Bernier were probably more on building up technical capabilities and your own character as a player. They were a bit more concerned on the “bigger picture.”

Carlo Marchione, I would say, also does the same. But he gives you a deeper understanding of music details. Those small parts can make a huge difference and require patience from the student.

I was very fortunate to study with great professors who I really desired to work with — not just going overseas for bragging rights.


Mental health

Sometimes I visit a therapist, psychiatrist, or a psychologist just to validate if I’m doing alright. I believe there’s no shame in seeking professional help if really needed, especially in an imaginative field, because we do get burned out. Maybe everyone deserves some clinical support at some point in their lives.


Being an educator

The main lesson I’d like to impart to my students at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde is that the actual journey is important. Probably so, more than the results. A musician’s expedition stops at their own will. On the creative side, it’s not a 9-to-5 job. Let’s be open, critical, and receptive to what we can learn. Although we have deadlines in school, the development process will go beyond that. Let’s try to go slow in order to improve faster.


Meaningful awards

I think all of the awards I have received — even second and third prizes — are meaningful. For most competition guitarists, the most valuable goal is making it to the finals as it shows you meet the jury’s standards. In the highest level, most of the time, objectivity is probably not the decisive factor. Some factors cannot be controlled such as subjectivity and what the judges may be looking for. And at times, even politics. So to pinpoint one award is quite tough.


Advice to aspiring musicians

Music can be a difficult undertaking if one chooses to view their career solely from their own perspective. But with flexibility and commitment, a lot are possible. Looking at it as starting a business. Lots of work, countless risks, but most importantly, non-stop learning.