Thursday, February 24, 2005
To FAN or CAN, that is the question

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine, the charismatic flutist Amy Porter, gave me an article she'd just reprinted in her flute club newsletter. The article, written by Derek Mithaug and excerpted from the Juilliard Journal, discusses the two ways in which most musicians approach their careers--they either FAN or CAN.

To FAN means to Find-A-Niche and is generally the easiest approach to consider. Students that FAN are looking for a niche in an established organization like an opera company, symphony orchestra, dance company, teaching position, or some other work like directing, presenting, marketing, or consulting, for example. In other words, the work is there for them, they simply need to learn the craft, distinguish themselves (not an easy task), and fit into the structure, which is already in place.

The other way to approach a career in music is to CAN, or to Create-A-Niche. Students who CAN like to create their own jobs. These students are entrepreneurial in nature and tend to be more independent-minded. To succeed as a CANner, you need to learn to certain skills beyond your craft--skills that will help you find jobs and succeed at them, like writing press releases, making phone calls, follow-up correspondence, fund raising, design, marketing, and so on. Certain musicians--like concert saxophonists, for example--have to follow a CAN model, since there are few established organizations in which to strive to become a permanent member.

Whether a student chooses to FAN or CAN depends on many factors, including ambition, musical ability, street smarts, and job availability. However, I also think that it's possible to combine aspects from each approach to make a career extremely rich (perhaps not exactly in the financial sense!) and rewarding.
Praised by The New York Times as "an inventive musician . . . fresh and surprising," saxophonist Brian Sacawa has firmly established himself as an important contemporary voice for his instrument. He is active as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician throughout the United States and is the co-founder of the new music duo Non-Zero with percussionist Timothy Feeney.

He has given premieres of over thirty works by both established and emerging composers, including Michael Gordon, Bright Sheng, Andrew Mead, Oliver Schneller, Ken Ueno, Beata Moon, Hillary Zipper, and Scott McAllister, among many others. Named the Baltimore CITYPAPER’s Critic’s Choice for Classical Music in 2002, he is the recipient of awards for solo performance from both national and international competitions.

Sacawa's versatile career has led to appearances with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony, Harvard Group for New Music, New Music Brandeis, Bargemusic, and at meetings of the ISU Contemporary Music Festival, World Saxophone Congress, North American Saxophone Alliance, and New England Saxophone Symposium.

Brian holds degrees from the University of Michigan, the Peabody Conservatory, and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, where he studied with Donald Sinta, Gary Louie, and Lynn Klock. He has recorded for the Equililbrium, Naxos, and BiBimBop recording labels.

See Brian's other blog
Sounds Like Now