Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Winter 2004Kellogg School of Management
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  Brian Chung '82

Alumni Profile: Brian Chung '82

He’s singing his song
Brian Chung '82 has harmonized his musical passion and his marketing career

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 for improvement.

“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.”

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University