I just got back from Montreal. I was playing in the Montreal International Recorder Competition, because, yes, I play the recorder, and, if I do say so myself, I don't suck at it.
If you were wondering, it went well. I played the semi-finals, and moved up to the finals, where I came in fourth out of four. Here's me with the other finalists and winners:
I also won the prize for "Originality in the Semi-final Programme," which was pretty sweet. The prize for the Originality prize was a modern bass recorder.
The competition was sponsored--at least in part--by McGill University (the main Anglophone university in Montreal). As I spent the majority of the time in a practice room, I didn't get to do a lot of sightseeing. But I think I learned a few things.
I learned, for example, that the neighborhood around the campus is called the McGill Ghetto, because it's a little pocket of Anglophone college students who, according to my sources, don't often get out to broader Montreal. I also learned that if you travel anywhere West of "the Ghetto," you had better speak French, because shopkeepers and taxi drivers will roll their eyes at you if you don't.
I learned that those same taxi drivers, upon discovering that you're an American, have a tendency to shout "OBAMA!" I learned that, as one Montrealer told me--in French, of course--it's cool to be an American again.
I learned that punk didn't die; it just moved to Montreal and got really, really French. Seriously, I have never seen so many people my age skateboarding non-ironically.
But, most of all, I learned that I am really glad to have gone to Oberlin.
I almost went to McGill. Oberlin and McGill were neck-and-neck until the end. Here's the (probably apocryphal) story I like to tell: the day I had to send the letter saying which college I'd like to attend, I still hadn't made my decision, so I walked down to the mailbox with two sealed letters--one to Oberlin and one to McGill. I made the decision on the corner, right before I stuck the Oberlin letter in the box.
I doubt that this story is actually true. But it captures the way I ended up at Oberlin: almost by accident or chance.
The strange thing about this is that Oberlin and McGill have very little in common. McGill is huge (app. 40,000), public, in a big city, and in Canada. Oberlin is small (or by comparison), private, in a cornfield, and in the U.S. Really, the only thing they have in common is that they both have killer Historical Performance Departments.
But, after being at Oberlin for the last
800 4 years, I can say, both with gratitude and a sigh of relief, I made the right choice. Not that there's anything wrong with McGill! It's a great school, and Montreal is an amazing city. But their practice rooms are only open until 10:30! And each harpsichord room requires a different key! Crazy!
In all seriousness, though, it's more a matter of the way Oberlin's size and, err, let's say unique student body creates a community--one far different than I found in McGill. Indeed the great "disadvantage" of Oberlin--that it's in Oberlin--ends up being its great strength. In Montreal you already have vibrant communities; in Oberlin, you're forced to create, and creating community has been one of the most rewarding things I've done in my time here.
And, now, on an unrelated note, here's Glenn Beck killing an analogy and a frog: