There's always a bit of a shock when I leave Oberlin to briefly re-enter the real world, and conversations with friends at other schools sometimes draw to a halt quite rapidly. "On Friday night I went to see my friend's jazz recital, and then saw the Contemporary Music Ensemble play a great program of Schnittke and Ligeti, and then I played in a late-night free jazz jam session, and then..."
My friends will listen politely but after a while their eyes glaze over. "Do Oberlin kids party?" Yes, I'll tell them, but even our parties are an opportunity to hear more music. On Saturday, I went to a party to hear some friends play in a funky New Orleans brass band; they were followed by a frenetic noise-rock trio comprised of Oberlin alums. My own band, Like Bells, is playing a fundraiser at the 'Sco (Oberlin's campus bar and dance venue) next Saturday night, along with a David Bowie cover band and The Sauce, Oberlin's flagship booty-shaking funk ensemble.
A few months ago I counted at least 15 different student bands that play around campus, playing everything from punk rock to hip hop to funk to noise. Add in the significant singer-songwriter population, plus the concerts put on by Conservatory ensembles (usually one per week), plus concerts by artists brought here by the college, and it's pretty hard not to find something worth seeing on any given night.
Oberlin is a very communal school; it's relatively small and self-contained, and so people get to know each other fast. These communal qualities are probably best exemplified by the co-ops, but I feel that Oberlin's live entertainment scene is an extension of those same principles. The performers on stage in Finney or Warner or the 'Sco or the Cat aren't strangers; they're your peers and your friends. Attendance at a concert is as much a sign of solidarity with your classmates as it is an indication of interest in the performance. It's difficult to say whether or not this would exist at a larger school, but as someone who performs fairly regularly I can attest to the positive atmosphere this communal spirit creates.
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