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Meet Miho Nomura of iMusic Academy & iMusic United Foundation in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Miho Nomura.

Miho, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Music has always been the center of my life. Music has kept me focused, disciplined and has given me a sense of self-worth. I was 5 years old when I started playing organ and piano and I continued to study music in junior high, high school and college. I continued my music career as a music composer for TV and Film after I graduated my college.

I’ve never thought myself becoming a social entrepreneur but by forming iMusic, I want to give kids the same opportunities as I’ve had to create a positive future. My journey still continues and our iMusic mission continues to evolve as we grow.

I’ve always been very clear on what I wanted to do and knew what I needed to pursue to achieve the goals I had for my life. I had grit, determination and demanded respect from others who I worked with. Most importantly, people who have come across my life have believed in me and I’ve been grateful to be able to fulfill my potential. Great opportunities were given to me at the right time and place through the network of contacts and I had amazing experiences and success in my career. I was inspired and able to expand my interest pursuing a broad range of business sectors like real estate, energy, food & beverage and other industries besides music and entertainment.

My life was amazing, I was young, full of inspiration and new experiences, meeting executives, influential leaders and dignitaries traveling all over the world. Yet at some point, I found myself extremely busy, overwhelmed and too exhausted. I realized that I had lost myself spending all my time with business dealings that are not important. I think everybody can relate to what I went through. I had to take a step back from my career and businesses in 2012. There were also great challenges that I had to overcome in terms of personal growth and to change my priorities. Our society tend to be judged by what we are, not who we are. Your career is part of what you are but your career does not determine who you are. During this time, I was also having unhealthy relationships that lead me to depression. I was no longer confident with who I was. I was weak.

I started searching for my core happiness that I thought I had in place for myself, not knowing it had drifted away because of the environment I was in. I was denying my ability, it took me a while to embrace my vulnerability. I decided to go back to my roots in music. I picked up a new challenge, a new musical instrument and started to practice the violin. I kept playing and practicing all day until I got tired. Pretty much that is all I did all day for a couple of months. I was slowly able to find the new me moving forward to a new chapter of my life. Later on, I regain my focus, discipline, confidence and my self-worth. I reinstalled my strength through music and could again recognize who I was. Today, I am member of 3 local symphony orchestra today.

iMusic Academy was born in 2014 coming from a good place of sharing my own experience of how powerful music is in impacting one’s life. By launching iMusic Academy I sought to help rebuilding myself by helping others. My situation was to prepare myself to go back to normal life. I didn’t have any ambitious agenda to build a company, but I sketched out my long-term goals of creating opportunities for anyone to learn music. I wanted to service dedicated parents faced with the challenge of finding the time to bring they children to music school or senior citizens who have limited access to transportation or difficulties traveling on their own. I had the idea of bringing music teachers to the students and thus connecting the gap between music educators and the community.

iMusic Academy is a mobile music school that brings high caliber music education to your convenient location. iMusic Academy teach music to children, their parents, senior citizens and any adults who have limited time to go to music schools or has limited access to transportation. Also, I have partnered with unified schools districts and private school students from high net families in our area. Soon after I started, we had high demand for in home lessons.

4 months after we were in operation, I was clear on the direction of how iMusic Academy should be structured. I’ve founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization under the umbrella of iMusic Academy. 100% of all profits from iMusic Academy goes to iMusic United Foundation, with a mission to impact lives through music. (www.imusicunited.org).

Today with the support from iMusic Academy, we provide music education and music therapy to close to 1200 students in underserved communities and school districts in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Nothing is easy when you start to build a company regardless of any industries, small or large. You need dedication, devotion and determination in order to achieve. I launched 2 entities, iMusic Academy and iMusic United Foundation at almost the same time, it was chaotic – a for-profit company and a for not profit organization. Yet my platform has organically grown by word of mouth within the community. Our services were doing great and the hiring process of interviewing our instructors and therapists was fun. These music educators and music therapists are musicians and people with good intentions and almost have the same feeling and goals towards the community in their own capacity. They were so excited about participating in our organization.

My biggest challenge was my staff development and volunteer management of the non-profit organization sector. Although I have served on the advisory board and as board director at other organizations, founding my own with little experience was not easy. This industry was new to me in so many different ways. The amount of responsibilities of all advocacy, establishing bylaws and different policies and procedures. I saw the magnitude of the big picture, creating a community based public organization. Learning by doing, there was a learning curve to launch this organization. While you have a mission to promote, we are closely working with political, economic, social, health and cultural aspects to interact with the community. Your individual accomplishments had to be unified with our organization’s mission and how much impact that we can make.

As we can only grow by true support of public and community, I appreciate our partners, donors, sponsors, community partners, my board directors and advisory board and special thanks to my staff, music instructors, music therapists and volunteers who believe in our missions.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about iMusic Academy & iMusic United Foundation – what should we know?
iMusic Academy (naming) “i” means “love” in Japanese. My mother wanted to name me either “Miho” or “Ai – pronounce as “i”) so I named this entity honoring my mother’s love – iMusic = “LOVE”Music

iMusic Academy a mobile music school that brings the beneficial impact of private music lessons and hand-on performance to diverse communities at conveniently to your location. We manage and bring our talented music educators and music therapists to your students directly. Today’s lifestyle is focused on convenience and iMusic Academy will teach music to children, their parents, senior citizens and any adult who has limited time and transportation access to go to outside music schools. We therefore create opportunity to provide music education and music therapy services to schools, families, facilities and businesses in the Greater Los Angeles area. We have more than 105 music teachers and 30 music therapists providing services to local public and private schools, community centers, residential homes and living communities.

iMusic Academy operates under the umbrella organization of iMusic United Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides musical development to all facets of the community and designed to provide music education to underserved communities at no cost. 100% of tuition proceed from iMusic Academy goes to the Foundation. iMusic United Foundation https://vimeo.com/192464946

iMusic Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which is designed to, regardless of income, provide high-caliber music education to all of its participants. As iMusic has experienced exponential growth and engagement across our social channels, we are thankful for your support and contributions to our perspectives on learning.

We currently serve about 1200 students at low-income housing communities, senior homes and inner-city school districts majority focused in Inglewood, Compton, Lawndale, Lancaster, West Covina area. I have established partnership with CSULA serving as their official learning program and we have a teaching assistant volunteer program.

Our students have showcased together with HOLA (Heart of Los Angeles) last summer at Levitt Pavilion and some of our students did sing the National Anthem at UNHCR World Referee Day. iMusic has grown to a community of 105 music teachers and teaching assistants, 35 music therapists and more than 2,500 volunteers and supporters. The community of our partners and school districts trust that our service will reflect highly on their stories of inspiration. We are extremely grateful.

We also work with amazing vendors and distributors in regards to acquiring musical instruments, co-hosting events and fundraising effort for our programs. We work with Roland, Conn-Selmer, Saga Music, Guitar Center and Aquila etc., We also often take advantage of their school grants program. As far as string instruments, we have been working with a local music store in Pasadena purchasing at-cost 40-80 violins per semester from them.

I myself is a music composer, a professional pianist and a violinist. I am member of local symphony orchestras. My non-profit is a passion project to expand my involvement with the community, find human connection and challenge my creativity. I encourage everyone at iMusic to maximize their own abilities by getting involved and being very hands on. We often run with an extremely tight budget but we have established strong partnerships, therefore we are able to provide the highest quality music education to all students in our program.

We are located in Santa Monica and to support our cause we have Grammy Winner Artists Terrance Martin, Terry Lewis and Marlon William on our advisory board.

What were you like growing up? Personality wise, interest wise, etc.
Born and raised in Japan I moved to USA to start college studies. I was always a happy kid with lots of ambitions. I grew up in a small town so everybody knew everybody and I had lots of relatives and family around me all the time. We helped each other out. I grew up in the 80’s when Japan had an economic bubble. The economy shifted its emphasis on telecommunications and computers. It was a highly sophisticated period, I had interest in lots of things but music was my center in life and I liked to surround myself with music sheets, instruments and equipment. I think have an introvert personality but I love to socialize and meet new people. Lots of friends came to me for advice. I have both a very artistic side and a business mind at same time. I was often called out by professors for being eccentric, extreme and unexpected. I am not sure if it’s good or bad.

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