Today we’d like to introduce you to Giana Nguyen.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve been singing since I was a little girl… around 3 or 4 years old. Music has always been a part of me, probably inherited from my dad who was a singer and guitarist in his youth. I sang in the choir from elementary through high school and studied classical piano starting around 10 years old. My dad bought me my first piano at that time and I still have it today, and it’s the same instrument on which I’ve written all my songs thus far. I taught traditional piano lessons while I was going through college and for a few years after I had started working full time. My professional career did not start out in music as that wasn’t the “practical” route.
Coming from a refugee background (my dad and I fled Vietnam when I was 5 years old), my family always emphasized the need to have stability and success in the straight and narrow way. Earn good grades, get into college, find a steady job, and work your way up. And I did that. I studied health care administration at California State University, Long Beach, and had a cushy job in the healthcare industry for the first 10 years of “adulting.” But there was always something missing. I was doing well, but I wasn’t feeling fulfilled.
I started looking further ahead in life and didn’t want to be on my deathbed wondering what could’ve been if I had just given myself the chance to pursue what I really loved… music. So, I made the decision to give it a go. At that time, I had connected with some old friends from high school, Tony T. Nguyen and Michael J. Filson, who were making their own way in the new music business and they helped me release my first solo E.P. called “For Now” in 2011. It was the first time I had written original songs and had music professionally produced, recorded, and mastered.
Crazy as it sounds, right after the release of that album I also made the leap into music and left my healthcare career. I was married at the time, so that was my only saving grace from literally being a starving artist. I had nothing in this music business. No career projections, very little income from teaching a few piano students, no agent, no manager, really no plan. But I was driven and determined to find my way in a career doing anything and everything related to music. I started gigging all over Orange County and Los Angeles and met some really great independent musicians along the way.
About a year later, I serendipitously met my piano business partner, Alex Nguyen, who had the idea of opening a commercial piano school specializing in a unique playing-based piano method called “Simply Music.” I did my research and fell in love with this method immediately and went through the training to obtain my license to teach it. We recruited a third business partner, Stephanie Chang, and together the 3 of us opened “Dancing Keys Music Studio” in Irvine, CA. We opened our doors in 2013 and have been growing steadily ever since.
We also partnered with Molly’s Music, who specializes in voice lessons and our two businesses aim to deliver the best experience in quality voice and piano lessons to our community. What I love about Dancing Keys Music Studio is that this work combines my passion for music with my practical senses, tying back to my determination to make a living with music. Flash forward a few years and my vision is back to creating original music. I just released a new E.P. called “GiANA” on July 27th and is now available on all digital platforms.
It contains 5 original songs (one of them co-written with musician Wachman) plus 1 cover of a Sheryl Crow song called “Strong Enough.” Each song reflects a different facet of my life over the past few years, but the overall album is my own fight song for the female entrepreneurs balancing life, love, motherhood, and career. We want to do it all, we can do it all, just not all at the same time. Priorities are constantly shifting, but as long as we keep following our compass, we can find peace and our own definition of success.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has not been a smooth road, and I see some major curves and roadblocks ahead. But that’s what makes life interesting! You only grow outside the comfort zone, right?
My music school has seen some changes, first with the departure of one of my business partners in 2016, and soon in 2019, my remaining partner will transition out to pursue other career interests. But I’ve learned enough over the past 5 years in business that I’ll be able to navigate on my own by forging strong strategic partnerships and leaning on mentors. We’ve got wonderful teachers on board, too, so I know our students are in good hands. My projects on the singer/songwriter side have seen delays and setbacks in the creative and release process, but I fully believe in finding my voice (figuratively and literally) and will explore all avenues possible to get the music out there.
The biggest challenge with both aspects of my music career, the school and original music, is the lack of a robust marketing budget, so I rely heavily on word of mouth and community news outlets like Voyage LA.
On the personal side, I’ve been through a divorce and am now co-parenting a son with my ex-husband. Our son was diagnosed with autism in the same week that we decided to end the marriage. Needless to say, that was a difficult time for all of us, but we worked as a team for our son’s sake and are doing our best as a modern family. I share this in the spirit of opening conversations and hoping others might feel OK with discussing taboo subjects, too. The more empathy we have for each other, our friends, family, neighbors…the more we can create a cohesive community.
So yes, there have been struggles along the way, but the struggles do not outweigh the human triumphs I’ve experienced from working through those struggles. And I channel those emotions into the music I write, play, and teach.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I’m Giana Nguyen and I’m a musician! I write, record, and perform original music in the vein of singer/songwriter sentiments delivered through soulful pop styling. I also co-own and teach piano at a music school in Irvine, CA, called Dancing Keys Music Studio where we specialize in a multi-sensory, playing-based method called Simply Music.
Music is my life. My passion. My connection to the world. Working with me means that you can have confidence and trust knowing that I’m doing it for the right reasons. At my core, I’m a musician who runs a business, not a businessperson doing music.
- Website: giananguyen.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/giananguyen/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/giananguyen/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/GianaNguyen
- Other: https://www.youtube.com/user/giananguyenmusic
- Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2w1CnOf
Orlando Cazares, Thuy-Van Nguyen, Hyundai Motor American