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THE FINAL NOTE singalongs. I eventually borrowed that guitar without him knowing and learned the basics of that instrument. Guitar is still the instrument that intrigues me most to this day.

The Retailer: What instrument do you most enjoy playing? Sumner: I still enjoy just picking up an acoustic guitar and doing some singersongwriter stuff solo. James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell — that kind of material that works really well with just voice and guitar. It’s very satisfying.

TOM SUMNER

President, Yamaha Corp. of America

By Brian Berk

The Music & Sound Retailer: Who was your greatest influence or mentor and why? Tom Sumner: If my life were a historical novel, my greatest influence or mentor would need to be a composite character. I’ve had some great teachers, bosses and friends who have all had a profound influence on me. But narrowing it down, my dad was clearly my greatest influence. He was a human resources person for almost his entire career, so he had wonderful insights into working with people and career management. His wealth of experience helped me find the right company and kept me from making (with 20/20 hindsight) big career mistakes. He also single-handedly saved me from becoming an attorney — for which I am forever grateful. The Retailer: What was the best advice you ever received? Sumner: When Yamaha first entrusted me with a division leadership role — there were 18 people in the division — I went to a friend of mine who is an entrepreneur. At the time, he led his own company with about 500 employees (about the number of folks working at Yamaha Corp. of America today). I peppered him with questions, and he had such great insights. My biggest question to him was how I should behave now that I was in a leadership role. The Yamaha leadership team at the time was really good, but really strait-laced. Even though I worked hard and got things done, I had a tendency to “cut up” at the office — trying to keep it fun for me and the rest of the team — and maybe I used a curse word or two every now and again. He was unequivocal that I just needed to be myself, especially since I was leading a team that already knew me well. If I changed my behavior, the team would know I was not being authentic. That was the right move. The Retailer: What was your first experience with a musical instrument? Sumner: My dad bought a guitar and learned how to play. He played chords and we did family 62

The Retailer: Tell us something about yourself that others do not know or would be surprised to learn. Sumner: Well, my daughter is an actress who can sing, dance and act — sometimes all at the same time. My wife was also a theater geek growing up. When my daughter was in elementary and high school, she joined a local community theater troupe. I joined her and for many years performed in three to five musicals each year. It was good to perform as a family, and I had really varied roles — anything from Harold Hill in “The Music Man” to Bill Sykes in “Oliver!” to Joseph in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” I played in the pit band for my high school musicals, but being on stage in the acting capacity was way out of my comfort zone at the time. The Retailer: What’s your favorite activity to do when you’re not at work? Sumner: I love music, but I’m also a big baseball fan. My team is the Cleveland Indians. If I have some downtime, both my wife and I love to go to games. She’s an Anaheim Angels fan. Angel Stadium is just 20 minutes or so from the Yamaha office, so it’s relatively easy to take in a game after work. The Retailer: What is the best concert you’ve ever been to? Sumner: Toughest question ever, as I have so many, but I think the Yamaha 125th anniversary concert at NAMM was the best. Such a wide variety of great performances, including Dave Grusin, Elton John, Toto and Sarah McLachlan. That was a really special night. Really great sound and such a huge, star-packed lineup in a relatively small venue. The Retailer: If you could see any musician, alive or deceased, play a concert for one night, who would it be and why? Sumner: It would definitely be Prince. He is one of my all-time favorites. I own almost everything he ever put out, but never was able to see him live. It was really strange that I was planning to see him on (continued on page 61) JULY 2019

Profile for Music & Sound Retailer

Music & Sound Retailer July 2019, Vol 36 No 7  

In July’s Summer NAMM issue, we take an in-depth look at the NAMM Music Education Advocacy Fly-In, make the long trip to Italy to visit Proe...

Music & Sound Retailer July 2019, Vol 36 No 7  

In July’s Summer NAMM issue, we take an in-depth look at the NAMM Music Education Advocacy Fly-In, make the long trip to Italy to visit Proe...