We had the good fortune of connecting with Mai & Cuong Nguyen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mai & Cuong, what is the most important factor behind your success?
We do not make profit the main focus of the business. Yes we want to make profit with the business, of course. A lot of profit would be very nice too! However, the fundamental driving force, the thing that excites us, that make us do most of the things we do with the business, is the desire to create value for our customers, and that includes our teachers too. We believe that we will be fairly rewarded for the work that we put in. We have happy students, happy customers, happy teachers, and as owners we are ourselves happy with work satisfaction.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My wife (Mai) and I, we both have a strong IT background. Although I had a degree in music, I’ve worked for many years as a software engineer. Mai has a Phd in Computing Science. Both of us, incidentally at different stages in our IT career worked for IBM, Mai in France and I in the US.
What we also share is finding joy in creating… beautiful, or useful, things.
I have composed, earned several composition awards, tried writing in high school, earned a young writer award, done pottery, learnt to make violins, and am now making my wife a cello. Started teaching piano at 17 right after getting the Licentiate diploma from the Trinity College of Music London, I have continued teaching, with a few small breaks, while pursuing a full time IT career.
In 2014 I finally took the plunge and bought a music school which has since been renamed to Huntington Beach School of Music. Mai has been instrumental in finally making it a success after several years of heave losses while I was still trying hold on to my IT job as our main income stream. During the Covid shutdown, we manage to keep the school afloat with online lessons and virtual recitals every 3 months, doing our best to make it fun and keep students engaged and motivated. In March this year we opened a second school in Garden Grove, OC Musica, offering both music and dance classes.
Mai has channeled her creative energy into creating the website, and teachers/students portals for the schools. Mai, also an avid photographer, has decorated the schools with her own artistic flairs, personal touches, photos, and artworks which she has taught herself to make. Mai also has a passion for gardening, and many of the plants at the school come from our own backyard. I would say Mai has made the schools her own artworks and use them as vehicles for self expression.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We don’t go out a lot, definitely not party animals. We would have problem finding enough places or things to do, for truly memorable experiences, if we have visitors for a whole week. We would have no problem entertaining friends at our place, home cook dinners and relaxing with a few glasses of wine and some music.
There are a few places though, that we have always liked to take friends to, within driving distance: the Huntington Beach Pier either in the early mornings or late afternoons for some gentle sun, sea breeze and coffee, Little Saigon for authentic Vietnamese foods, there are just so many good eating places there that it’s even unfair to mention any specifically, but we like Tram Chim, and Bien Hen for their seafood.
Then of course, Disneyland if they have kids, and Getty for a whole day experience!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Erzsébet Kozma, Liszt Academy of Music
I (Cuong) had the fortune of studying with Ms Kozma for a few years in my twenties, and it had totally changed my thinking and perspective about teaching and the responsibility that a teacher should have for the students, for their well being and success. This also makes us so much more passionate about the teaching and services we provide at our music and dance schools.