A Visit with Quincy Jones

Last week I visited with the quintessential musician Quincy Jones. As I sat with him in his magisterial home in L.A., he turned to me and asked, “How long could you live without music? A day?”

My response? “Minutes, I say.” The conversation reminds me of Frederick Nietzsche’s famous quote: “Without music, life would be an accident.” For me, as an entrepreneur, a jazz pianist and an innovation educator, music is more than the soundtrack to my life. It’s a way I learn and create new things. It’s why I wrote my book Jamming about what leaders can learn from jazz musicians and why I continue to be inspired by jazz as a discipline that contains the keys to innovation.

Q, as he is known to his friends, always inspires. What moved me most in our conversation was the passion with which he talked about “his kids.” He was referring to a portfolio of exceptional young talents whose careers he is nurturing. One example is the young omni-talented musician Jacob Collier. Collier blends classic music with new forms of performance made possible by digital technology — not to mention a brilliant talent at harmonizing with himself. The result is magic. (You have to see him perform here.) And so Q and I find ourselves in absolute agreement about the importance of nurturing the talent of young people, like Collier, who I call “EdgeMakers” — inspired young creators who are transforming their worlds, and ours, by fusing disciplines in entirely new ways. What Q understands, as do I, is that we all have this capability within us, given the right resources and inspiration.

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