Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in music education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Chihiro Shibayama, Percussionist and Educator based in Los Angeles, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I'm a professional percussionist & timpanist who has performed worldwide with orchestras, opera companies, Broadway musicals, and more. I'm a passionate teacher who has taught students from ages 6 - 60 of all levels. I co-founded a non-profit arts organization called MuSE (Multicultural Sonic Evolution) in 2009 and have produced over 100 concerts so far.

Tell us about yourself

I left my home country, Japan, at age 16 on my own to pursue a career in music in the U.S. without knowing anyone or how to speak English. Because of this fact, whenever I face challenges life throws at me, I tell myself, "If I could do that when I was 16, I can do anything!" People often ask me, "How did you do that?" My short answer is that I was curious, optimistic, and too young to worry about the detailed list of what could go wrong. The curiosity to experience something new, hard work, and my friendly nature led me to Juilliard in New York City, where I've been enjoying a successful career as a professional musician. I'm living proof that music (or arts in general) is a universal language, and there are kind people in the world who helped me along the way.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I'm grateful I was given so many opportunities to perform with different institutions and music of multiple genres. Some highlights include: Miss Saigon, West Side Story on Broadway, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the Metropolitan Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Kansas City Symphony, San Diego Symphony appeared on Good Morning America with John Legend and Common, Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon Prime).

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Some challenging things about being a freelance musician: Not having a predictable schedule, working in the evenings/ weekends/ holidays, not knowing when I will be paid next, and how much work I will have month to month. I've always had a few music-related part-time jobs to supplement my income and have some predictability in managing my finance.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Never stop learning - music (or arts in general) is a lifelong journey.
  2. Find something that only you can offer, and don't compare yourself to others.
  3. Cherish your friendships/ network and strive to develop a pleasant personality - being a skilled musician is important, but being a nice person to work with is sometimes more important.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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