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May 02, 2020 3 min read

Chihiro Shibayama is a percussionist in New York City! She has performed at Carnegie Hall, on Broadway, with headliners such as John Legend and Common, the Metropolitan Opera, and in the Amazon original series “Mozart in the Jungle!” Keep reading to find out more about what makes Chihiro an Amazing Asian in the Arts!


Name: Chihiro Shibayama


Heritage: Japanese


Hometown: Yokohama, Japan


Current City: New York City


Current Project: Making YouTube instructional videos about playing percussion and drums


What are some of your favorite credits/projects?

I enjoy a diverse career as a freelance percussionist in NYC. I’ve performed with in many orchestras and groups at Carnegie Hall, several Broadway shows including “Miss Saigon,” Good Morning America with John Legend and Common, several productions with The Metropolitan Opera, and appeared in the Amazon Original series “Mozart in the Jungle” as a background musician!


What are some interesting facts about yourself?

I moved to the U.S. when I was 16 to attend Interlochen Arts Camp. I did not speak any English, but I loved the experience so much that I decided to transfer to the Interlochen Arts Academy from my Japanese high school. I haven’t lived in Japan full time since. It’s interesting how one event can change someone’s life completely! The first instrument I took private lessons on was the harpsichord, on a recommendation from my mother. I’m the only musician in my family, but my mother loves music and took me to many concerts, which I’m sure had a big influence on me!


What do you love most about what you do?

I love when I get to share my craft with other musicians and the audience. I also love being part of a vibrant community of musicians in NYC. There is something magical about feeling the air vibrate with music! I’ve very grateful I get to play music for a living!


Any advice for young people getting into the arts?

If you love it, keep pursuing it no matter what others might tell you. I strongly believe that talent is only a fraction of success. Most successful artists consistently put hard work into perfecting their crafts. Choosing art as a career is not easy in terms of making a sustainable career with a steady income. I still struggle with that after 15 years of working as a professional musician, so you have to do it because it’s your passion. There will always be someone who is better and more successful than you, but it’s important to focus on your own growth.


Do you have any non-profits you work with that you’d like to highlight?

I’m the co-founder of a non-profit group called Multicultural Sonic Evolution (MuSE). We produce concerts in different styles and disciplines.


How did you get your start?

Moving to New York City to attend Juilliard had a big impact on my career. The city has many work opportunities that I didn’t even know existed! I started taking gigs even while I was a students and started building my connections, which is the most important thing in freelancing.


What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?

Finding financial stability has always been a challenge in an expensive city such as New York City. However, that never bothered me as long as I was able to pay my bills. I love being a busy freelancer doing so many different things. It’s smart to have multiple sources of income for when you’re not performing.


Where did you study at?

I hold a Bachelor of Music and a Masters of Music from The Juilliard School, and a High School Diploma with a concentration in Percussion Performance from Interlochen Arts Academy.


Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?

Besides my performing career, I also teach at two music schools and work as a part-time orchestra librarian. My hobbies are rock climbing, cooking, and baking bread. I even named my sourdough starter Phoebe, after my favorite “Friends” character!


For more information about Chihiro, please visit her at:

Instagram: @chihiroplayspercussion

YouTube Channel:

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