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Meet Emiko of Rose City Media Group in Los Angeles/Pasadena/North Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emiko.

Emiko, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m a lifelong musician. I started as a classical pianist as a child, performing for foreign dignitaries, VIPs, etc., and wrote my first song when I was eight. By the time I was a teenager, I was performing original music live on a regular basis, started touring and releasing albums. I really cut my teeth on the music industry in New York but I always felt like there was more. Like there was some unrealized or unexplored side of my career and my character.

My father was in the government and my mother was a simultaneous interpreter. I’m half Japanese and half Jewish and grew up with a very strong sense of where I came from. My parents made sure that I spoke Japanese as fluently as I spoke English and I spent months going to school in Japan every year. I do come from a somewhat musical family. My paternal grandmother was a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and moved out to LA in the 1950s. She was a composer, a conductor, and a music educator. My mother has a beautiful voice and although she didn’t pursue music professionally, she saw the importance in it. She was the one who found me lessons and made sure I always practiced (even when I didn’t want to – and there were plenty of times when we knocked heads about it). My father, again, not musical by nature per se, but being the son of a Juilliard graduate, realized music to be viable and valuable path. He would sit with me night after night after dinner and give me random phrases and challenge me to write songs on the spot in a game we ended up calling “Titles.” This became the basis of my “Song on the Spot” challenge years later when I would give masterclasses and clinics at various universities and music store chains around the world.

I consider myself blessed to have grown up with such a strong work ethic. My parents instilled in me from an early age the importance of seeing things through. They also instilled in me that “good enough wasn’t going to be good enough.” They pushed me and motivated me to always do better and to challenge myself to do better even when I brought my best. It seems these were good core values to have because the move out here to LA was a tumultuous one.

In one sense, my entire life was falling apart during the move, as I was fighting a custody battle and dealing with the fallout of some domestic violence issues that I had experienced. As the case was being fought in New York, I was constantly having to fly back. For four of the five years, I literally hadn’t spent more than two or three weeks at home at one time. Needless to say, the utter upheaval during this time was nothing short of legendary proportions.

In spite of that, somehow, I managed to experience some of the greatest developments and successes in my professional career so far. I played keyboards with Cyndi Lauper. Recently, I was asked to play keytar in Major Lazer’s new music video, “Lay Your Head on Me’ which features Marcus Mumford. My media production company, Rose City Media Group (yes, named for our beautiful city of roses, Pasadena, CA!) is now an award-winning documentary production house with two of our productions winning and placing in various international film festivals. My recording studio, Tiny Cactus Productions has been able to record some incredible artists who are going on to great endeavors in the music industry and I’ve been up to my elbows in film scoring work!

On top of that, I’m really honored to say that I’m on the Board of Directors for Shepherd’s Door, a domestic violence resource center in Pasadena, CA.

So just as I moved out here and life as I knew it seemed to be over, when it seemed like the darkest days were closing in on me, there were incredible blessings that only LA and Pasadena could deliver. It was a total juxtaposition but absolutely cemented in me, the decision to move to the West Coast was the right one.

Ultimately, the back story is WAY more involved than just this in terms of all the experiences I had and the incredible people I worked within the industry in New York and around the world. I lived in England for a while, traveled around Europe, Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong. All of these travels and connections have very much contributed to who I am now and how I see the world.

Has it been a smooth road?
I can definitively say it has not been a smooth road at all! But, now it’s clear the obstacles and challenges were totally necessary. The last decade of my life has been a training ground – a sort of boot camp to build me up to where I am now.

One of the biggest struggles along the way was having to travel back to New York regularly to fight this litigation. While there were plenty of sleepless nights, tears shed, a lot of stress-induced illness, lack of finances, and every other type of struggle you could imagine, a few things came out of it that made me grow into who I am today, both personally and professionally.

First, I learned the true value of good character. No matter what anyone says about you, if you’re clear in your identity and your core values, whether personally or professionally, you’ll be okay. You’ll actually be way more than okay if you have that straight.

Secondly, there are some inherent things that people cannot take away from you, try as they might. Your identity, your talent, your voice. These three things are critical to success in all parts of life.

Thirdly, something that became crystal clear through these challenges and obstacles was my mission. In my case, I had struggled for years with answering the question of why I was a songwriter. It seemed quite selfish to answer “because it’s in me” or “because it’s just what I do.” Through this process, what I learned about myself was that everything I do going forward has to be in service of someone or something else. When it comes to my compositions, that means writing pieces that will resonate with others on a deeper level. When it comes to our film production, it means working on projects that give voice to those who may not otherwise have a platform on which to be heard. When it comes to recording other artists, it means contributing and supporting to elevate them to what is hopefully the next level of their career. When it comes to working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence, it means offering them as much support and compassion as humanly possible. Being an ear and shoulder. Being an advocate. Being a resource. Standing with them and not in judgment of them.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Rose City Media Group – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
The thing that sets my situation apart from others is that there are really three companies all with one common thread (which is me, I suppose!) that serve different facets of the industry but share common core values.

Rose City Media Group, my production company, has a roster of incredible clients that we represent in terms of social media marketing and content creation. Through starting that way, we found that what really sets us apart from other digital marketing companies is our ability to hone in on the branding side of things and offer meaningful content creation that works cohesively with branding strategy. From here, we grew into documentary film production which is mostly what we do now. We found we naturally gravitated toward producing longer form pieces (we started with web series’ and grew into documentaries) and all of us had a common desire to tackle stories head on that, no matter how uncomfortable or unorthodox, deserved to be told.

My studio, Tiny Cactus Productions, started because I, as an artist, needed a place to rehearse with my band. The more time we spent there, and the more people we connected with, the more productions we started to do until finally, we created a really special and unique production environment in which we not only do traditional music production, we do interactive and remote production, editing, mixing, and a ton of film scoring as well as web content composition and recording.

I always feel a bit awkward talking about myself but this is the first time in my life I’m able to say I know who I am with a sense of security and yes, even pride! I’m a songwriter and composer, a recording artist, a keyboardist and keytar player (because keytars are super cool), I’m a producer, a studio owner, and the President of two companies.

Some might look at all of this and say it seems a bit scattered or that I’m doing too much. And to that I’d say this: first of all, I don’t think I’m doing enough! And secondly, some of the greatest and most successful people in the world run multiple companies and are involved in a myriad of endeavors. It’s not what you DO that makes you successful. It’s who you are and how you think.

In this sense, the thing of which I’m most proud is just that – the work my team and I put in to create an ecosystem within these three initiatives that work cohesively and supportively of one another, often in tandem! And we have so much fun doing it, too!

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
So for LA: The culture. The food. The heartbeat of the city. The people! (I could take the easy road and say the beaches and the weather but I’m sure that’s been done to death already.) The attitude of LA is so beautiful. It’s welcoming, it’s energetic, it’s inclusive. Coming from New York, admittedly, I was a bit jaded, but LA was very quick to show me the love and vibrance of the city. There’s something really special here that I think is made from the experiences and the stories of the people who live and work here. Also, for newcomers and transplants, the possibilities here are endless. It really a place one can build a dream into a reality.

As for Pasadena: It’s where I made my home. It’s a really emotional place for me because it’s where I would come back to after trips back East to fight the litigation. I remember touching down at LAX laaaate night (because I would always take an evening flight back out of Kennedy) and getting into a Lyft. When I saw the lights of the Colorado Street Bridge as we drove on the 210, my heart would relax and I would breathe a sigh of relief. Waking up the next morning and seeing the San Gabriel Mountains for me reminded me there was a life outside of what I was going through. Pasadena in that sense has been a haven for me.

The other great things about Pasadena have been the real sense of community I’ve gotten here very quickly. The history of this city is so special (I found out it was actually incorporated on my birthday!) and rich. It balances small town feel with big city vibe really well. Pasadena has great city programs for its residents and a lot of resources for kids. It’s very family-friendly and is a beautiful place to live. I know it was the right place to make my new home in my heart. (And as a light-hearted aside, four of my favorites restaurants are here and there are stellar happy hour spots!)

What I like least? The traffic. That’s literally it. Call me overly positive perhaps but I can’t really think of anything else that I like least!

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Image Credit:

Matt Grashaw, Tommy Helvenstine, Nathan Crumrine, Chris Cairns, Vivyka Perkins

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