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June 19, 2021 11:04 AM

Masayuki Iishi, Pearl CEO Talks On 75th Anniversary

Pearl Musical Instruments Co., Ltd., percussion and flute specialist manufacturer celebrates 75th anniversary this year. Japan Music Trades interviewed Masayuki Iishi, who assumed the CEO position of the company in this last January.

Born in Kyoto in 1971, Iishi joined Pearl in 1995. After served several key positions including president of Pearl Distribution Company in Holland, and director and managing director of Pearl headquarters in Japan, he was appointed to director in 2012, then to managing director in 2019 before assuming the CEO position.

MT: Well, looking back 75 years of drum and flute manufacturing, will you tell us early history of Pearl and your future prospects for the company as CEO?
Iishi: The 75th anniversary gave me an opportunity to look back the Pearl history and the goals we originally set. Katsumi Yanagisawa launched Pearl in 1946 manufacturing music stands. Soon he expanded business adding acoustic drums to meet growing demands of the time. It was a hard time right after the WWII producing quality drums without substantial supply of principal materials including woods. The engineers had great difficulties to develop drum shells using materials other than wood in perfect circle with excellent tonal resonance. In 1965 we successfully launched President series drums made of phenolic shell. They turned out to be the first professional drums under Pearl brand and made a breakpoint for the company.

The President drums became a sensation in the drum scene not only in Japan but also in the world markets. Sometime later, we developed wood shell drums in original design and production method. They were refined and integrated in ensuing years. We also developed acrylic shells, and special shells coated with carbon fiber on inner surface. History of shell development illustrates history of Pearl itself. We also expanded our lines to include drum hardware, racks, pedals, marching and concert drums, timpani as well as Latin percussions.

MT: Much is talked about reissue models of President Series developed in commemoration of 75th anniversary? (photo right: President Series Phenolic)
Iishi: Yes, we offer two types of shell using phenolic or lauan materials matched with state-of-the-art hardware for much improved tonal quality and durability. They will be appreciated by modern drummers. In fact, more than expected orders have poured in from drummers throughout the world.

MT: What do you think the core of Pearl is?
Iishi: It is to develop products that derives maximum inspiration and expression from individual musicians. We believe it is only possible with products built with highest precision technology. Pearl instruments meet the request of players with qualified technology and support them with proven sturdiness.
In addition, Pearl instruments allow players to select desired models matched to their needs. Purchaser can choose favorite materials from broad selections of the shell and parts, shapes of bearing edge for Masterworks line, the flagship model of Pearl drums.

MT: Peal flutes have also good reputation in the world markets?
Iishi: We started manufacturing flutes in 1968. The production expanded to Taiwan in 1973, but we still build hand-made models in Japan. Since we targeted worldwide distribution from the outset, we accelerated export of Pearl flutes in 1960s and launched two distributors, Pearl Corporation in U.S. and Pearl U.K. late 1970s. Pearl Music Europe (Holland) followed in 2002.

MT: COVID19 has totally changed our life, society and economy. What do you prospect for the years to come for Pearl?
Iishi: We have experienced and overcome multiple catastrophic incidents to this day, but this pandemic most affected our business in our history.
I took over full responsibility of the company at commemorative 75th anniversary and at the same time, in difficult time as our society, life and economic system dramatically change. Severe headwinds, but I thought we could adapt to the changes and develop strategic production and marketing for the future under ongoing new normal conditions. We set a new slogan, “Celebrating Our Past. Innovating Our Future” as Pearl group. It is we continue corporate efforts for our customers and partners. Realigning Pearl identity and brand value, we hope to keep contributing to players of all levels and countries with our instruments so that they can get inspired and explore their musicality.

While seeking essential possibilities of Pearl instruments, we think we can further enhance capabilities of percussion instruments of all genre. Customer needs change as our society is quickly changing. Pearl eMerge digital drum and Mallet Station are new generation of products developed under a new concept that can meet requirements of musicians today.
Our global distribution gives us increasing opportunities to expand our lines and services matched to indigenous music culture.

MT: We understand Pearl is respected for fine relationship with artists.
Iishi: On 75th anniversary a host of artists sent us warm messages. We appreciate them all and feel hamble that we have been supported by them to this day. Amid the pandemic, music performance and every type of gatherings were almost all cancelled, but that convinced us music is essential in our life and society. We hope artists coming back to their stage and please us with fantastic performance as early as possible.

MT: What do you think the challenges the industry has from a standpoint of manufacturer?
Iishi: EC market is growing globally. I think manufacturers and retailers can work together to get maximum advantage of it. We can support retailers providing effective measures to help customers visiting music stores enjoy exciting shopping experience and make appropriate purchase decisions. We need to provide end user with upgraded and well-coordinated information.
At the same time we, manufacturers have a mission to offer the market and music makers attractive and innovative products, value and services.

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