By Nicole L. Joseph
Upon graduation from college, some business
majors accept consulting or managerial positions. Others seek
valuable internship experience to prepare themselves for the
rigors of business school.
Brian Chung '82 played the piano.
“I have always loved the piano,”
says Chung, now senior vice president of Kawai America Corp.,
one of the nation’s leading piano manufacturing companies,
where he manages the company’s key business relationships,
planning sales programs and ensuring that different departments
work together harmoniously.
“We all have big dreams when we’re
younger. I wanted to be a musician or composer.”
Though his childhood dreams adjusted to the
realities of life, Chung has retained his love for music.
He’s done this by continuously incorporating
into his life a desire to advance the music industry, establishing
himself as a respected pianist and accomplished businessman.
This dual dedication has earned him recognition by the Music
Teachers National Association and a top position at a firm
that produces the musical instrument he cherishes.
Chung’s balancing act began during his
undergraduate years as a business student at the University
of Michigan. He played in the marching and jazz bands during
the academic year and worked summers as a musical director
at Walt Disney World.
After graduating in 1978, Chung went to England
as a Rotary Foundation scholar to study classical piano, avant-garde
jazz and conducting.
He returned to California and spent a year
as a pianist before entering the Kellogg School one-year program
in 1981, where he lent his talents to the annual Kellogg music
revue, Special K.
Chung believes B-school students benefit from
more than just classroom academics. He recalls the importance
of the connections he made with peers during his tenure as
a Kellogg marketing scholar.
“It was a fabulous experience,”
he says. “The greatest value I received were the relationships
--- the chance to work closely with some great minds.”
Chung says that the strategic insights he
learned at Kellogg were equally important.
“One of the classes I enjoyed most at
Kellogg was a course on marketing channels,” he says.
“It was an interdisciplinary course that gave me a framework
for thinking ... a process of analysis that has (since) helped
me make key decisions.”
After graduating from Kellogg, Chung worked
for three years as an account executive at AT&T. He then
joined another Kellogg alum at a small entrepreneurial company.
All the while, he continued composing music for small films.
He joined Kawai in 1988 and has been senior
vice president for eight years. Chung says that one of his
biggest challenges comes in developing Kawai’s corporate
and product messages in an environment in which the number
of piano brands is growing.
“My major marketing challenges are to
keep our brand message clear, passionate ... and distinct
from others,” he says, “and then to develop ways
of keeping that message in the hearts and minds of people
on the selling floor across the country.”
Chung also lectures to musicians and music
teachers about the state of music education, offering ideas
“The teaching of music as a profession
has painted itself into a corner,” he says. “More
emphasis (should be placed) on creating music from the large
portion of musicians who do not want to be high-level performers.”
In a speech delivered at the 2003 National
Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, Chung said that “practice
makes prosperous” because practice is transferable to
the business world.
“One who has taken the time and patience
to prosper in music has the ability to succeed in business
or any other field,” he says.
Chung’s life is indicative of this convergence
between the patience and dedication associated with mastering
the piano and the comparable skills that transfer over to
his success at Kawai.
Most importantly, he says he will continue
to play the piano.
“I’m a musician on my own terms,”
he says. “It’s wonderful to play music just for
the love of it.”