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We Lost a Good One: Michael Kovins of Korg

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  • We Lost a Good One: Michael Kovins of Korg

    Here's the official news:

    "Korg USA mourns the passing of company President Michael Kovins. Michael, who worked with the company for 26 years, served as Korg USA President for the last 14 of those years. A respected music industry figure, Michael was diagnosed with Leukemia nine years ago and fought the battle for his health with courage and dignity. On May 2, 2006, Michael passed away at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Manhattan. The family is holding a private remembrance service and has requested that in lieu of flowers, a donation in Michael's memory be made to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He is survived by his wife Katherine."

    Now here's the unofficial news: I knew Michael for years, and he always was a major supporter of what we all do. He was a tough negotiator and committed to all things Korg, but he was also a driving and positive force within the industry, with a particular passion for sponsoring all things educational. He saw the potential of media like educational videos, and wrestled with the transition from hardware to software, resulting in products like the Korg Legacy Collection but also in concepts like the Micro-X editor, which not only edits the hardware but also serves as essentially a cross-platform plug-in.

    This is a sad day for his family and those who knew him, but it's also a very sad for the music industry...which has lost a true friend and supporter.
    _____________________________________________
    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

  • #2
    RIP Michael.

    I'll have to go home and bang out a few beats on my Korg DDD-5. Fantastic product for its' day, and still the most robust set of buttons on any drum machine, bar none. :thu:

    If Michael's fingerprints are on most everything Korg's produced in the past quarter-century, then judging by the products he must've been one heck of a visionary. :thu:
    <div class="signaturecontainer">That's my opinion and it oughta be yours. - Makk Trukk, WSIX, Nashville, Tn.<br />
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    • #3
      Oh my God!

      I've known Mike for many years. He was a tough guy and a good businessman, but also an honest person who did indeed help drive the industry forward on many fronts. Mike also came up as a marketing guy like me, though his career was a little more stellar than mine.

      Mike was involved in an organization with whom I did some work called TIME (Technology Institute for Music Educators. Its goal is to assist music educators in applying technology to improve teaching and learning in music. Mike was on the board of directors (as were several people in the music technology manufacturing realm), and I really got the feeling he did it out of a belief that providing technology tools in music education was not only good for the long-term health of the industry, but also very worthwhile for the students. He was a big proponent of education on all fronts, and was also the key person who grew Korg into being the powerhouse it is in the US (being the distributor for Marshall, Vox, etc.).

      I honestly didn't know about his leukemia, and Mike went about his business in a way that wouldn't make you have any idea he was ill. Frankly, as a result, I'm shocked to learn of his passing.

      Rest in peace.

      - Jeff
      <div class="signaturecontainer"><font size="2"><i><font color="Green"><a href="http://www.zakclaxton.com/" target="_blank">Music, thoughts, stuff, and... I guess that's all</a></font></i></font></div>

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      • #4
        I'm sad to hear about this man's passing even though I never met or knew him. If you two have a super high opinion of him, he must have been a great guy. I'm wearing my Korg MS-20 shirt today in his honor (no, I'm not making that up).
        Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

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        • #5
          Sad news! I didn't know Mr. Kovins, but I'd like to offer my sympathies to his family, friends, and colleagues. Korg is a great company, and that is typically a reflection of upper management.
          <div class="signaturecontainer"><i>Two wrongs don't make a right, but three rights make a left!</i></div>

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          • #6
            Mike wasn't as well known to the "man in the street" but was a major force within the music industry. I think that actually the industry is more impoverished by his loss than Korg; Korg has quite an infrastructure of engineers and product managers who will keep the products flowing. But Mike's constant push for education and broadening the market was important to him, and also was a major contribution to the industry; he was as tenacious about that as he was about helping to build Korg USA into the powerhouse it is today.
            _____________________________________________
            There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Anderton
              I think that actually the industry is more impoverished by his loss than Korg.


              Agreed.

              By the way, Craig: I let several of my clients know about this event after you posted it here, and a couple of them are making donations in Mike's name to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society as a result. :thu:

              - Jeff
              <div class="signaturecontainer"><font size="2"><i><font color="Green"><a href="http://www.zakclaxton.com/" target="_blank">Music, thoughts, stuff, and... I guess that's all</a></font></i></font></div>

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              • #8
                Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Mike - everything said is right on.

                He and I became friends in the early 90's while we were on the board of the International Association of Electronic Keyboard manufacturers. Even though we were competitors (I was at Ensoniq at the time) we became fast friends and he was the reason I came over to Korg in 1996, after many years of his trying to bring me onboard. Yes, he was my "boss", but it never felt that way. He had an unerringly right "compass" about what to do for the company, and the industry and he made friends for life.

                I feel him standing on my shoulder right now telling me to "suck it up and get back to work - take care of my company and my industry" in that gruff East Coast way of his, so I'll try to do just that.

                :cry:

                Jerry Kovarsky

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                • #9
                  Here is some more biographical information about Mike:

                  Mike joined Unicord, the predecessor of Korg USA, in 1980 and first served as Product Marketing Manager. In 1984 he was promoted to Vice President Marketing. When Korg USA was founded in 1985, Mike then assumed responsibilities as Executive Vice President. In 1994 he was promoted to President, a position he held until his passing.

                  Mike was born on July 25, 1948 in Queens, New York and grew up on Long Island in New Hyde Park where one of his proudest achievements was earning first chair/trumpet in the school orchestra. He graduated from the University of Miami in 1970 with a Bachelors Degree in business and music and went on to receive his M.B.A. in marketing from Long Island University, C. W. Post campus in 1980.

                  Upon graduating from the University of Miami, Mike began his career in the music industry at Sam Ash, first in their educational department and then in their Hempstead, Long Island store. In 1973 he joined Tolchin Instruments where he was involved in setting up the first nationally distributed catalog for music educators. Upon leaving Tolchin in 1976, Mike went to work at M. Hohner, Inc., hired by then Vice President Sales, Joe Bredau (Korg USA
                  _____________________________________________
                  There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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                  • #10
                    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jerry.

                    <<Even though we were competitors (I was at Ensoniq at the time) we became fast friends and he was the reason I came over to Korg in 1996, after many years of his trying to bring me onboard. >>

                    And that was one of the things I always admired about Mike: Despite being a tough competitor, he always had the broader view of what was good for the industry and for musicians, not just what was good for Korg.
                    _____________________________________________
                    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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                    • #11
                      So often I'm guilty (as are many of us) of looking at products, and never thinking about the insightful human beings that brought those products to the light of day.

                      I'm so sorry to learn of his passing. My sincerest condolences to all here who knew him and considered him a friend or mentor...and of course, his family.
                      <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://www.myspace.com/tedhoffman" target="_blank">My Space</a></div>

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                      • #12
                        Very sad news, I had no idea Mike had lukemia. Mike was always a genuine guy. He'll be deeply missed!
                        <div class="signaturecontainer">-Mike Martin<br>Casio America, Inc.<br><br><a href="http://www.casiomusicforums.com" target="_blank">Casio Music Forums</a><br><a href="http://www.soundcloud.com/casiomusicgear" target="_blank">PX-5S Audio Demos</a><br><a href="http://xwsynth.wordpress.com" target="_blank">XW Synth Blog</a></div>

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                        • #13
                          Mike was a very "classy" guy. He always had time for me and was always very supportive of Sweetwater...even in my early days. He understood what we were about long before most of the other manufacturers ever "got it". I always appreciated the respect he gave me.

                          He also was a very brilliant man, without having to be boastful about it. I always loved talking to him... We had some great lunches, dinners, and meetings. My regret is that I never took him up on his offers to join him in a game of golf. I would have loved to spend 4 or 5 hours with him.

                          When I saw him at this Winter's NAMM I knew something was wrong...but I had no idea it was this bad. He handled it with such grace. I'm still in shock from the news earlier this week.

                          Prayers to his wife, his family, all at Korg, and his friends all around the world!

                          Chuck Surack
                          Sweetwater

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                          • #14
                            Tedster really had a great observation:

                            So often I'm guilty (as are many of us) of looking at products, and never thinking about the insightful human beings that brought those products to the light of day.


                            I fully agree, it's a beautiful contribution and legacy, to preside over a company which helped foster so many beautiful memories and feelings for so many people. Millions of have been moved and touched by the songs made with Korg products, most having no idea they were hearing an M1, Trinity or Triton, to name a few.

                            My condolences to Mike's freinds and family.
                            <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://www.myspace.com/dahkter" target="_blank">http://www.myspace.com/dahkter</a></div>

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                            • #15
                              <<He also was a very brilliant man, without having to be boastful about it. >>

                              That's so true, Chuck. He was also very economical with words. There were quite a few times I had the opportunity to ask him for advice, and it always worked the same way: I'd ask, there would be a long pause (I think his CPU was kicking into overclock mode), and I'd get one concise sentence that really said all I needed to know. He never pulled an "I'm the president of Korg, I'm busy" but always made time if I needed to talk about something.

                              But there's something else I think is important to remember. Mike was part of the generation that worked off of instincts and a keen sense of which way the wind was blowing. In this age where people won't make a move without a lecture from accountants and focus groups, executives like Mike were not afraid to make bold moves and win big or lose big -- but whichever happened, they followed their hearts. And more often than not, that leads to greatness rather than safe mediocrity.

                              When I saw him at NAMM I knew something was wrong but didn't want to ask. I'm sorry I never got to say goodbye. But you know damn well if I had, he would have said "Why are you sitting here talking to me? You have articles to write, and videos to edit."

                              Thanks for the comments, Chuck. It's appreciated.
                              _____________________________________________
                              There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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