Published: Feb. 4, 2011

canningby Jeffrey Nytch
Asstistant Professor & Entrepreneurship Center for Music Director

I first met Lisa Canning a little over a year ago at the first-ever conference on music entrepreneurship in higher ed, sponsored by the College Music Society. When, during our very first conversation, I learned that she had studied clarinet at Northwestern University — a leading conservatory preparing musicians for orchestral performing jobs — and that she had discovered there that playing in an orchestra was not her calling, I felt an immediate bond.

Her story was so much like my own.

For me it was discovering, rather late in the process of earning my DMA in composition, that becoming a university professor of composition and analysis — the thing I was being trained to do — was not what I wanted to do. In Lisa’s case, her response was to start her first entrepreneurial venture — a clarinet shop which is now a multi-million dollar business. For me I came to entrepreneurship by more of a backward route, and one I did not even realize was “entrepreneurial” until many years later. But the particulars of our journey is not the point: the point is that we had both confronted that terrifying moment when we realized that the thing our education was preparing us for was not what we wanted to do with our lives. And in confronting that moment, and vowing to not simply walk away from music but redirect our energy is a different way, we eventually found our calling.

I wonder how many other students experience that same realization, like a cold dread rising in the pit of their stomach. It would be easy, in that moment, to conclude that all the time, energy, and money you’ve poured into training to become…fill in the blank — whatever it is you’ve been training to do…was an enormous waste. But it’s not. For one thing, no experience is ever wasted: it adds to the sum total of your knowledge, and it enriches all future experiences in ways you can’t ever foresee or sometimes even articulate. And for another, just because you decide that playing in an orchestra or becoming a composition professor or whatever else it is you *thought* you would do isn’t, after all, your calling, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t still an almost limitless range of options still open to you — both within music, or by applying your skills and passions in another direction altogether.

That’s what Lisa will be coming next week to share with us: that your passion can lead you anywhere. All you need to do is identify that passion, and equip yourself with the tools to realize your dreams and ambitions. I hope you’ll join us for Lisa’s Keynote address Wednesday evening at 5 p.m., in the Imig Chamber Hall, entitled, “Grande Skim Latte, 2 Equals, Double Cup It, No More Starving Artists, Please,” and/or her interactive workshop, “Discover your WHY” on Thursday morning, 9:30-10:45, in IMIG N1B85.

And no more starving artists!