The music industry mourns the passing of Korg USA President Michael "Mike" Kovins on May 2, 2006. Mike passed away at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Manhattan, New York after a long battle with leukemia and is survived by his wife of 29 years, Katherine. A private service was held on Long Island on May 5 and the family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, a donation in Mike's memory be made to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (www.leukemia.org).
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's current Vice President Marketing & Sales), to run their Orff-Schulwerk Division. When Hohner decided to move to Richmond, Virginia, Mike went to work at Unicord.
At Unicord, Mike was instrumental in launching such groundbreaking products as the Korg Polysix, Mono/Poly, GT-6 Tuner and Marshall JCM800 Series. He later went on to become one of the founding members of Korg USA, and as Executive Vice President led the introduction of the industry's largest selling music workstation, the Korg M1. As President he oversaw the successful introduction of a succession of industry leading products, such as the Korg TRITON and most recently, the Korg OASYS.
Always a strong advocate and supporter of music education, Mike was instrumental in creating Korg USA's SoundTree educational division and was the founder and an Executive Committee member of TI:ME, Technology Institute for Music Educators. He was a recipient of Berklee College of Music's Golden Clef award for Lifetime Commitment to Music Education, the Julia E. Crane International Medallion for Lifetime Achievement in the Music Products Industry, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award 2006 of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami for his outstanding achievement in the music industry. Mike was also on the Board of Directors of Five Towns College and was a past Board Member of NAMM. At the time of his passing Mike was the President of IAEKM, International Association of Electronic Keyboard Manufacturers, and on the Board of Directors of AMC, the American Music Conference.
In his personal life, Mike was a devoted Los Angeles Dodger's fan, an avid golfer and an active member of the Indian Hills Country Club, Northport, New York. He could regularly be found participating in music industry golf events where his natural athleticism and talent at the game always made him a contender for top honors. One memorable occasion was Korg USA's 2000 summer golf outing in Nashville when Mike got a hole in one!
Few knew of Mike's nine year battle with leukemia. Whether attending a NAMM Show, visiting a dealer, chairing a company meeting or out on the golf course, Mike fought the disease privately and with great dignity. With a complete absence of self-pity, Mike never let his illness affect anything he did for Korg USA and was always a motivating and driving force to everyone around him.
Exemplifying a true leader, Mike would always take time out of his busy day to walk the halls of Korg USA, stopping to talk to everyone from the newest employee to managers who had worked with him for years. They were all part of his extended family, and Mike always treated them as such.
Korg USA Executive Vice President and CFO Joseph Castronovo stated, "Mike Kovins, Mitch Colby (Senior Vice President Product Development and Support), Joe Bredau (Vice President Marketing & Sales) and I have been part of one of the longest lasting management teams in M.I. We've worked together since 1989, and throughout all that time Mike's focus on growing the music industry was unwavering. He was evangelical in his commitment to music and music education, and in his desire to grow the market. Everyone at Korg USA will miss Mike, but our loss is also shared by the entire music industry, because as a group, with Mike's passing, we have surely lost one of our leading and most impassioned voices."