Montreal, the largest French-speaking city in North America, is an ideal blend of European flair and American drive. This is a tremendous source of pride for me as a native Montrealer who works in both America and Europe.
Growing up in Montreal was how I became destined for a future in Philadelphia. There are so many similarities between these two great cities. Both showcase originality in their food and arts; they are very neighborhood-focused; they're walkable, with beautiful old buildings everywhere you look; and the people are outgoing. To be from Montreal carries an unspoken pride — and I need not state the fanatical pride one feels to be from Philly.
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Montreal provided me with a strong foundation of acceptance and inclusion. As a child, I was immersed in a city where half of the population spoke French while the other half spoke English, and we were able to coexist smoothly. This bilingual lifestyle not only nurtured an organic acceptance of others, but it also encouraged creativity. All were able to express themselves and exist in society regardless of their language at home. Language and music are often considered close relatives, so I believe that being surrounded by more than one language affected my music-making. It allowed for more inventiveness and a willingness to accept new artistic ideas with an open mind. One was always encouraged to think outside the box.
Montreal, much like Philadelphia, has been a regular destination for festivals and cultures from around the world. This early exposure to ideas different from our own opened my eyes to the potential of the unknown. Every time I perform in a new city or a new venue, I learn something new about the music. Without Montreal, I would not have the same appreciation for diverse points of view.
I am a Montrealer. I am a Philadelphian. I am a musician. I am a partner, a colleague, and a friend. And I am very grateful for all that I am.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin is music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra.