Play it By Ear: How Tenoch Esparza Went From Conservatory Pianist to Tech Entrepreneur

Everybody wants to find a way to get paid to do what they love. But the path to making a living off your passions is often an unscripted journey filled with unexpected twists and turns, reinventions and surprises. After all, it’s estimated that our generation will change jobs 15-20 times over the course of our lifetimes. In our Play it By Ear series, we’re taking a look at the career 180s that got some of the young creatives we’re excited about where they are today.


Chicano tech entrepreneur Tenoch Esparza is one half of the brother duo behind music tech company Sunhouse, whose new Sensory Percussion system is making major waves in the drumming world.

Sensory Percussion – which recently reached its Kickstarter fundraising goal and is now in further development – is the first real solution to bridging the growing divide between digital and acoustic drumming. By merging electronic drum software and acoustic drums into a single instrument, Sensory Percussion allows live drummers to create the sounds that they previously could only make in a studio, using computers, while also allowing them to draw on the musicality and nuance that you can’t get from just pressing buttons and triggers.

Sensory Percussion uses an combination of hardware and software. Photo via Kickstarter.
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The system has the potential to completely revolutionize drumming as we know it. But before Tenoch Esparza was helping his brother Tlaca build a groundbreaking young tech start up, he was a musician himself.

The Esparza brothers grew up in Los Angeles. Their father is award-winning movie producer and activist Moctesuma Esparza, a man who established himself as a force in Hollywood by pushing forward empowering Chicano stories, including the Selena biopic that made both the late Tejana singer and Jennifer Lopez household names.

Tenoch and Tlacael Esparza
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Although Tenoch clearly inherited his father’s business savviness, it wasn’t always clear that business and tech innovation would be his path. In fact, after high school he spent four years in Russia at the Moscow State Conservatory studying classical piano, and was more likely to be found playing Chopin on his tapedeck than bumping electronic beats.

But after a stint in Silicon Valley working for Google’s communications teams to communicate the brand’s product and business strategies, his focus shifted. He moved to NYC to pursue an MBA from Columbia, and after graduating decided to join forces with his brother to merge his two interests: music and business strategy. The end result is a company poised to become the Oculus Rift of drumming – and potentially many other types of instrumentation.

“We’re trying to build the community as big as we can,” he told us.

Check out the Kickstarter for Sensory Percussion here, and follow Sunhouse on Facebook here.