Q&A: Khoa Nguyen finds his note


Photo by Khoa Nguyen

Senior Khoa Nguyen, student artist, has gained a little over 140,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Learning the guitar and piano, his music consists of soul and jazz instrumental pieces. 

What inspired you to make music?

“When I was little, my mom got me (a) digital piano and I would play it. One day I realized I could plug it into my laptop and I could (create) music on there so that’s pretty cool. I listened to a lot of music growing up.”

What effect does the Bay Area have on your music taste?

“It was a really diverse place, especially because I’m from the eastside of San Jose. So growing up, I was around a lot of different types of people and a lot of different types of music. It gave me a pretty wide variety of things to listen to to see what I like.”

Was there any point where you realized that your music was hitting a bigger audience?

“2020 was the year of COVID. There were a lot of online (opportunities) for musicians. There was this Kenny Beats Competition. (Kenny’s) the producer and I started (participating) in a lot of the competitions and so, people started listening to me more. That was the same year when this small jazz label reached out to me.”

Were there any obstacles when making music?

“I feel like the hardest part (was) reaching out to people. I’m dealing with this even now. Being able to make music is one thing, but it’s so much work to have to reach out to other artists and saying, ‘Oh, do you want to work together’. I wanted to work with more artists recently because most of my tracks are instrumentals on Spotify, (so) I wanted to send out beats to rappers, which is pretty new for me (because) you need to make packs of beats and then you email them out. It’s so much work and it’s kind of tricky.”

What has been your support system throughout your music career?

“A big part of me, making music today, and even what kept me going for a long time was discord servers. So I would join a lot of music discord servers, and there’d be people there (that are) my age with more experience and we’d work together on music and I would be able to ask questions. It was the biggest resource for me when I started out and even still is today.”

Have you taken any of the music classes at Granite Bay?

“I’ve taken guitar and piano with Susanna Peeples. She’s really fun. Peeps is so great. I had no guitar experience going into it, but now I’m pretty confident (playing the) guitar.”

How do you balance being a high school student and being an artist?

“Honestly, it’s kind of hard. Especially with college admissions, I wasn’t able to make that much music, so a lot of the music I made was over the break (or) on the weekends. It’s hard to balance, so I just do it when I have time. Luckily it’s not my job.”

Are you continuing to pursue music at UC Berkeley?

“I was considering going to school for music but I kind of realized that as much as I love music, I wanted to have something that could support me while I did music in the future. I don’t plan on quitting music anytime soon. But I feel like I have a lot of passion for digital creation in general, not just music. I love making instrumentals and beats on my computer and I thought, ‘I would rather take a chance and go to school for something that I knew would be able to support me long term while I still do music on the side.”