2016 Best EMBAs: Adrian Fung, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Adrian Fung Toronto

Adrian Fung

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

“Cultivate fun in everything you do. You’ll get much more mileage out of yourself and your mind will be more receptive, nimble, and explorative.”

Age: 35

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Family Members: Wife


  • McGill University: Licentiate of music
  • San Francisco Conservatory of Music: Bachelor’s of music, performance
  • The Juilliard School: Artist diploma

Where are you currently working? Toronto Symphony Orchestra, vice president, innovation; cellist and producer, Afiara Quartet

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: Concerts for Health Arts Society of Ontario (playing over 30 performances for a retirement homes across the province); free school shows in lower-resourced communities of North America; fundraising concerts for various local, national, and international organizations (latest example: Syrian newcomer concert at the Toronto Symphony).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Though it’s difficult to choose just one, I enjoyed a Strategy project with my team that had us find an interlocking system of activities that would grow one of our peers’ multinational businesses through better environmental practice (LEED certification), community-building, and strategy. It taught us all that ethical practices and clarity of strategy could directly relate to quantifiable value.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As performer and executive producer, the double album Spin Cycle with Afiara Quartet and DJ Skratch Bastid was named among the 10 Best Classical Albums by Forbes magazine and CBC Music, and was nominated for a JUNO Award (Canada’s top music awards). I am proud of this achievement because it illustrates in a three-step process how classical and hip-hop music can have an equal, authentic, and compelling collaboration. In order to progress, we need to have conversations with people outside of our normal scope. Our Negotiations professor, Glen Whyte, taught us to “create value from the differences.” I believe this project illustrated the power of this.

Who is your favorite professor? This is a difficult one because there were so many important professors within the program. Professor Doug Hyatt was incredible at unpacking the complexities of micro- and macro-economics in a way that was understandable, interesting, and immediately useful. Professor Walid Hejazi taught International Business and so much more: Every class was enlightening and has been a beacon in understanding global trends and large-frame visioning.

Favorite MBA Courses? Strategy, International Business, Economics, Finance, Integrative Thinking

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? The Rotman School of Management was immediately different than all the other schools I explored. While it would be easy to see an internationally touring classical musician as a “wild card,” from the moment I met Rotman’s recruitment director, Ryan Rodrigues, I knew they were not evaluating me solely on an existing, restricted mental model of successful candidates. Artists are not often the easiest to categorize and I appreciated the open-minded dialogue. I also was drawn by Rotman’s Integrative Thinking curriculum, which I resonated with both as an artist and innovator.

What did you enjoy most about business school? As my father was an actuary and my mother a concert pianist, I was brought up in a household that valued both qualitative and quantitative aspects. At Rotman, I was excited to attack problems with new tools every day, to explore deeply other ways of thinking. I appreciated learning new powerful languages to express ideas. We would have formal studies in persuasion and negotiation, and then in the afternoon compare the capital structures of two large firms and whether each of them should execute on a project. The combination and power of the courses was exhilarating.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? One can accomplish much more than one thinks.

What was the hardest part of business school? Balancing a touring and recording career, professional work load in the office, and the veritable onslaught of school projects, assignments, and exams.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? That it’s possible.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? Cultivate fun in everything you do. You’ll get much more mileage out of yourself and your mind will be more receptive, nimble, and explorative.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I realized, within the vein of integrative thinking and opposable mind theory, the value of combining my formal arts education and performance experience with the formal education of business.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Worse off.

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire (and why)? There are too many to name.

What are your long-term professional goals? To help lead the classical arts marketplace into the teeming, vital, and relevant environment it needs to be. I envision being the chief executive of a major arts centre, where its mandate includes bringing together the greatest minds on the planet in collaboration to build and challenge our global community to new heights.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my mother, without whom I would not have breathed my first artistic breath. She is the first music I heard, playing the piano and singing to me while she still pregnant with me.

Fun fact about yourself: I used to be a freestyle battle rapper

Favorite book: Big and Small: A Book of Opposites, Peter Woolcock

Favorite movie: Disney’s Up

Favorite musical performer: Yo Yo Ma

Favorite television show: “West Wing”

Favorite vacation spot: Home

What made Adrian such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) appointed our One-Year Executive MBA student, Adrian Fung, to the newly created role of vice president, innovation to lead a number of projects, including the TSO’s education and outreach programs, upcoming collaborations, and projects focused on artistic, social, and economic innovation at the TSO prior to his graduation from his MBA at the Rotman School.

“Adrian’s non-traditional business background illustrates how Rotman MBA programs attracts top talent from around the world with an incredibly diverse range of professional and academic backgrounds. Every individual we admit to the program has been chosen to contribute their unique experiences and perspectives to broaden and enrich the Rotman MBA experience.

“As a musician, Adrian Fung was an incredible addition to our class, bringing a wealth of knowledge and a unique combination of artistic and business skills to the classroom. Armed with his MBA skills, he is poised to make a bigger impact in society by fostering innovation and growth at the TSO, by leveraging his strong and diverse leadership abilities.”

Ryan Rodrigues

Director, Leadership Development & Recruiting

Executive MBA Programs

Rotman School of Management

University of Toronto



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