A band instrument maker and a world-class brass ensemble
put a new face on Chinese manufacturingp
OEM manufacturers can be a lot like ghostwriters: You rarely see them, but you almost certainly know their product. That’s where Beijing-based DY Music, creator of the Wisemann musical instruments brand, is becoming the exception. A manufacturer of brass and woodwind instruments since 1999, DY Music exports on a mostly OEM basis to North and South America, Europe, and elsewhere in Asia, yet it’s a prominent ambassador for music in its own right. In performance venues around China, the public face of DY Music is the Wisemann Brass Ensemble, a world-class quintet combining Chinese and international artists. Sponsored by DY Music, the ensemble is probably the best outreach program a manufacturer could dream of—and just one piece of its efforts to support music education and performance opportunities in China.
“The first thing we ask when hiring a new employee is, ‘Do you like music?’” says DY Music founder and CEO Hawk Yan. “I think what sets Wisemann apart from its competitors is that artists are included in the whole process from design to manufacture, and not just in play-testing when the instrument is already finished.”
Hawk, who’s made his career in the music industry since 1992, is a lifelong musician himself. From age eight he was playing the bugle in a marching band, and he went on to perform in the Chinese United Army band. Later, as head of DY Music, he would require all employees to learn an instrument as part of the company culture. With an MBA and a degree in international business law, however, Hawk also came to the company with a grasp of the business side. After manufacturing for a few years under several brand names, he decided DY Music would be better equipped to fend off mounting competition if it threw all its resources behind one brand—Wisemann. That same year, Hawk was joined at DY Music by his brother Michael Yan, a senior engineer, making the company a family business. Michael would go on to head the company’s wholly owned factory, which opened in 2007, improving the quality and consistency of its products across the board. Although best known for its brass and woodwind instruments, Wisemann also produces strings, percussion, accessories, and parts as well.
“We have a simple strategy, and that’s to make sure our products are of the highest quality,” says Hawk. “It has allowed us to grow very quickly. We constantly ask ourselves one question: Can we do this better?”
For DY Music, one way of doing better was to bring in international talent while raising its profile in the music world. It did both by starting the Wisemann Brass Ensemble and bringing in John Samuel Wood, a U.K. native and graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Music, as the quintet’s director. Billed as Asia’s first independently run professional brass ensemble, the Wisemann Brass Ensemble features musicians from premier institutions including the China Philharmonic Orchestra, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, and the China Central Opera Orchestra. From a gig with the Australian pop singer Katie Noonan to a highly acclaimed performance before members of the Chinese government at the Daxing County Concert Hall, the group has been seen and heard throughout China and in numerous TV and radio appearances. They were also the 2014 Ensemble in Residence at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Members of the quintet also act as artist consultants to DY Music as it develops new products. “It has given us a huge advantage having this kind of specialized knowledge and skills available to us,” says Hawk. “For the musician to work with the engineer, discussing design and then carefully selecting the perfect materials, is very exciting!”
In addition to his work in the ensemble, John Samuel Wood serves as director of Wisemann’s Music Education Department, founded in 2013 to provide music education programs in Chinese schools. Through a team of Chinese and international teachers, the Education Department offers a comprehensive program for woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. Students receive progressive weekly group lessons and ensemble practice, with instruments and after-sale service provided by DY Music at a discounted price. In China, where face-to-face relationships are highly valued and most musical instruments are sold through teachers and music programs, DY Music’s grass-roots approach is a perfect fit. “Reaching people through education is great because you’re creating your own market,” says John. “If you have a school with 300 students, that’s 300 more potential customers.”
Dedicated to the student instrument market for more than a decade, DY Music has started building for the professional market as well. With John’s input, the company developed and successfully launched a professional C tuba and compensating Eb tuba, as well as a brass band line. As Hawk notes, stepping up to the professional market has boosted sales even in the student segment as the Wisemann brand becomes more widely known and associated with a higher-end product. Many of these products are built for international markets, where DY Music has become a master of efficiency, building a talented import/export team and forming relationships with more than 150 partner companies worldwide. Increasingly, though, it’s also manufacturing for the Chinese domestic market where rising incomes and education are giving way to a crop of home-grown musicians. To quote a sentiment Hawk and John agree on, “It’s been amazing to watch it unfold so organically.”
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