Etudes for Innovation is the arts component of the annual KIN Global conference: an “informance” designed to inform innovative thinking in business through artistic performance. In music, an etude is an exercise that also has great aesthetic merit, such as the Chopin Etudes, which are performed regularly in concert halls around the world. At KIN Global, the etudes are for our delegates: exercises that in the span of a ninety-minute program, artfully stretch their thinking.
Asked to create “something engaging about the arts, business and innovation for KIN Global” by KIN Co-founder and Executive Director Rob Wolcott nine years ago, I was delighted to develop the first Etudes for Innovation (Opus 1) in 2008. Looking back, it is gratifying to think of the many Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award-winners and nominees that have graced our stage over the last nine years, along with rising stars for whom it is only a matter of time before they make their mark. It's been an honor to write and direct all nine Etudes concerts, which have been performed in Evanston at Northwestern University and the Nichols Concert Hall, in Chicago at the Art Institute and the Lyric Opera, in Miami Beach at the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center in Miami Beach, as well as other venues around the world. What I value most, though, is that it is fun. It is fun to develop the program with Rob, who is also my co-host. It is fun to work with such a diverse and talented group of artists. It is fun to prove how the arts really can inform disciplines beyond the arts. Simply put, it’s a great gig.
As always, Etudes Opus 9 complemented the theme of the KIN Global conference, which for 2017 was Foresight. The concert explored the foresight that propelled innovation in everything from jazz, film, choral music and brass ensembles to duets, conservatory fellowships and the evolution of the harp.
Our program began with jazz virtuosi exploring the challenge of seamlessly alternating between two radically different “grooves"—which is also an essential skill in business when multiple strategies must be simultaneously executed at varying rates of speed and acceleration.
We “went to the movies" with a case study of producer Merian C. Cooper’s astonishing, foresight-filled breakthroughs that made 1933’s King Kong a classic for the ages. Cooper's visionary work is still relevant to contemporary filmmakers. His multi-dimensional approach to problem-solving, coupled with an ability to harness the creativity of his team to produce pioneering work, is an inspiration to leaders and executives today.
The duet Sonic Escape demonstrated a skill critical to every successful business: an astute awareness of how to maximize the value of a team’s compensating strengths vis-á-vis its limitations—in this case violin and flute.
Foresight in technology was demonstrated in a segment on the emergence of the harp as a full-blown member of the orchestra. Innovations in the instrument's complex pedal tuning system were demonstrated by Marguerite Lynn Williams, an alumna of the New World Symphony’s visionary Fellowship Program.
Opus 9 showcased the Chicago Children's Choir, one of the nation’s finest youth ensembles, whose repertoire includes compositions by its own teenaged members. The etude for business is about the importance for organizations to commit to providing the kinds of supportive environments that help young talent flourish.
Given the physical configuration of this year’s venue, Nichols Auditorium—which has a deeply recessed balcony whose back rows are invisible to those on the main floor—I arranged a doubly-scored, antiphonal-styled rendition of Fanfare for the Common Man. A triumphant classic by one of America’s most forward-thinking composers, Aaron Copland, it celebrates innovation as something integral to the creation of a better future for all.
Rob Wolcott joins me in extending heartfelt thanks to the entire team for making Etudes for Innovation Opus 9 a "win-win" for artists and delegates alike.
— Jeffrey Ernstoff, Creative Director, KIN
film and cultural history
Maria Millar | Shawn Wycoff