Ethan Dong Speaks About Careers in—and out of—Music

Pianist and educator emphasizes honesty, sincerity, and determination.

December 10, 2014

Conservatory Communications Staff

Ethan Dong.
Photo credit: courtesy Conservatory Communications

On December 2, pianist and educator Ethan Dong gave a career talk titled “The Expected and Unexpected Life in Music.” Dong recounted his career path, highlighting the many different jobs he took on to supplement his work in music: He sold T1 cables door to door for a communications company, washed dishes, and became a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. He described how, even though many students desire a life in music, it is OK to take on temporary work in an unrelated field. He emphasized the importance of staying busy, rather than waiting for a string of ideal jobs to appear.  

“Don’t sit and wait," he said. "Continue to do what you love, but also take on a side job to help you through the transitional period in your life. Be honest with yourself, and be sincere with others in the work that you do.”

Eventually Dong decided to focus exclusively on music.  He posted more than 2,000 flyers around his neighborhood and started teaching music lessons, ear training classes, and music theory courses in his garage. He went on to found Opus119, a music school that serves nearly 500 students in Irvine, California.

At the end of his talk, Dong left these words of advice: “If there is something that you deeply believe in, love, and want to do, then it is possible. Stay true to yourself.”

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