Ken Kubota

Cello Teacher, Student

Ken Kubota

SAA Member

Cellist Ken James Kubota has shattered perceptions of the typical classical music career. While he is celebrated by The New York Times for “dynamic” and “polished” musicianship, most know Kubota as a YouTuber, social media personality, and for pioneering his unique style of strumming the cello like a guitar. As an artist, many know him as one-third of the band Empire Wild, a group now represented by Concert Artists Guild after receiving their 2020 Ambassador Prize. On social media, his audience numbers in the tens of thousands and continues to rise—he was selected as an Educational Partner by social media platform TikTok, creating fun and instructional videos on playing cello.

Kubota continues to grow a following as the founder and producer of JHMJams, a weekly video series of pop improvisations by classical and jazz musicians. Described in National Sawdust Log as an “online powerhouse” of classical music’s online ecosystem, JHM has earned additional recognition from Glamour, The Violin Channel, The Strad, and Classic FM. The channel is known for enlisting a brand new ensemble of musicians for each video; its roster numbers 300 and counting. Also found on Instagram and Facebook, the series has amassed over 5 million views on YouTube since 2016.

As the channel’s reach has grown, so has recognition from heavyweights in music and YouTube. Notable musicians to make JHM cameos include Miss Saigon Broadway star Devin Ilaw, Mexican singer and influencer Shannon Leeman, and Jason Anick, one of the youngest violin professors at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Dozens of pop stars including Demi Lovato, Nicole Scherzinger, Charlie Puth, and Alan Walker have publicly praised JHM’s covers of their work, while movie studio Lionsgate Entertainment featured the channel’s cover of La La Land in their promotional material for the Oscar-winning film.

The JHM musicians have been heard at select live events, including at Japan Day in Central Park; the Greene Space with WQXR; YouTube Space NY, and with celebrity YouTube singer Sam Tsui at Google’s 2019 Advertising Week. Memorably, one particularly enthusiastic fan even paid to transport Ken and five other collaborators across the country to perform at his boathouse wedding.

Kubota holds an ongoing partnership with nationally recognized real estate agent Kimberly Hastie, shooting JHM videos to market homes in the New York City area. Since 2019, sales traced back to JHM video marketing have totalled over $10,000,000. The innovative video concept has won widespread acclaim; one video in a TriBeCa condo earned a feature in BrokerPulse and Halstead Property’s Video of the Year, culminating in a guest performance for the company held at Harlem’s “World Famous” Apollo Theater.

Ken seeks opportunities to share his experiences with other entrepreneurially minded musicians, whether in creating an independent career, growing a social media following, audio/video production, or collaboration and consistency. His formal speaking engagements include at The Juilliard School, CelloBello, the Strings Virtual Summit and the Virtual Musician Summit. Also fond of the relaxed conversations found on podcasts, he can be heard as a guest on Faking Notes, Skip The Repeat, Take Me to Coffee, Good Times with Isabel Hagen, The Conditioned Musician, B4 the Stage, and Forte by Aaron Lipsky.

Outside JHM, Kubota has performed across the United States, Japan, France, and Switzerland, including Alice Tully Hall in New York, Orchestra Hall in Detroit, and Keyaki Hall in Tokyo, among others. His love for chamber music has taken him to festivals across the world, including the inaugural Encore Chamber Music String Quartet Intensive; Madeline Island Music Camp; Caroga Lake Music Festival; The Creative Cello Summit; Icicle Creek Chamber Music Festival; Blossom Music Festival; Chautauqua Music Festival; The Quartet Program; and Meadowmount School of Music. Further, Kubota served as the principal cellist in the Juilliard Chamber Orchestra, and performed in the ChamberFest intensive at Juilliard for four years.

Mr. Kubota holds degrees from The Juilliard School (B.M., M.M.), and serves on faculty at the Peabody Preparatory under Johns Hopkins University and Lucy Moses School in NYC. Richard Aaron, Anthony Elliott, and Alice Ann O’Neill are his primary teachers, though he is grateful to all of the luminaries who have shared their ancient secrets of cello and music: Yo-Yo Ma, Frans Helmerson, Peter Stumpf, and members of the Guarneri, Juilliard, Cleveland, Emerson, Cavani, and St. Lawrence String Quartets.

Ken is based in New York City, where he continues to film JHMJams in his Harlem living room. Follow and listen to his journey on Instagram/TikTok @kenjameskubota and YouTube @JHMJams.