We had the good fortune of connecting with Giana Nguyen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Giana, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I think having an element of risk in anything we do makes everything we do a little more interesting. The uneasy feeling makes you more alert and pushes you to think on your feet. Risk taking has been a part of my life even before I was born. My parents attempted to escape from Vietnam while my mother was 8 months pregnant with me. Though that particular incident was not successful, I’m here in the U.S. sharing my story because they didn’t give up. Ironically, the risk they took in order to give me a sense of security in America is exactly the inspiration behind all my risk taking endeavors in life and career (some more calculated than others). They gave up everything, so I’m not going to sit here on my laurels and be comfortable.
What should our readers know about your business?
I own and operate a piano school called Dancing Keys Music Studio located in the heart of Irvine, California. My background as a musician first, business owner second is what sets our studio apart because all things being equal, I think people gravitate towards authenticity. All of the instructors at the studio, myself included, are in it for the love of music. It’s not just a job for any of us but more a calling, as woo woo as that may sound. We do whatever we can to increase the likelihood of our students keeping music in their life for the long run, and not just take piano as another academic endeavor. I also make it a point to meet every prospective student/family before they enroll at our studio. We’re building a music community here so ensuring that goals and values are in alignment is really important to me. Dancing Keys Music Studio specializes in a method called Simply Music Piano, which focuses on a playing-based approach to learning how to play piano. Think about that for a minute — learn how to play piano by PLAYING first, utilizing all your senses, without being bogged down by layers of notation. Music reading is then introduced once a student has built a varied repertoire that they can comfortably and confidently play. Very much like how children acquire the spoken language well before they learn how to read and write. Along the way we do our best to impart learning strategies, life lessons, and fortitude into every class. We want to help nurture our students’ creativity in all areas of life and have piano as a means of self-expression. As with every small business, we’ve seen our fair share of ups and downs. I remember the first year of the studio, when my founding partners and I would work to pretty much just pay the lease. We were so happy the first time we cut ourselves a check! And now, even though I work with a solid team of instructors in a growing studio, nothing could’ve prepared us for a worldwide pandemic. One minute we were ‘business as usual’ and the next we had to shut everything down due to COVID-19. Luckily, we were able to pivot quickly to online lessons and continue engaging with our students during stay-at-home orders. And as we speak, the world is slowly starting to open up so it’s back to the drawing board of figuring out how to safely navigate this new landscape with a looming virus. Crazy to think that this is the new normal! Funny how being forced into a situation really tests your ability to expand. Prior to the pandemic, we only conducted lessons in-studio. Now, we are well trained and equipped to offer online and in-person instruction to a local and worldwide community. The best thing I’ve learned from day one is to stay fluid. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The only thing constant is change itself – learn from it, grow from it. One of my favorite quotes to live by is from Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” My students aren’t the only ones learning!
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I feel so spoiled to be living in Southern California, specifically Orange County. There is SO much good food and great shopping in this area! I love hanging out at the beach so Corona Del Mar, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach are some of my favorite spots. Each beach town has its own vibe and blend of eateries from low-key to fine dining. For shopping, you can’t beat South Coast Plaza for indoor perusing and The Irvine Spectrum for outdoors. Downtown Disney and Anaheim Garden Walk are great for nighttime explorations and live music at the House of Blues.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I don’t often name my parents in interviews so I think a Shoutout is in order! This one’s for my mother, Vivian Ha, and my father, Dan Nguyen along with my stepmother, Sandra Truong. They have supported me so much personally and professionally, and I’m forever grateful.