Jam Sessions for Global Progress
By Quincy Jones on June 10, 2013
Quincy Jones is a record producer, conductor, arranger, composer, television producer, trumpeter, educational philanthropist, and XPRIZE Visioneer. His career spans five decades in the entertainment industry and 27 Grammy Awards. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 18, 2013. His philanthropic efforts extend to the Quincy Jones Foundation, Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium, Harvard School of Public Health 'Project Q,' and a variety of benefit events.
I recently attended my second XPRIZE Visioneering event, and it was fantastic. Thought leaders and innovators from around the world gathered together for a weekend to discuss and develop innovative solutions to the world's "Grand Challenges" - global crises and market failures. It was a great opportunity to do what many of us are usually too busy to do: Stop, listen and think. Inspire and be inspired.
The great thing about this year's Visioneering was that we really covered a wide range of important areas. Everything from Mobility, Aging and Security to Women & Girls and Happiness. The area that drew me in was Learning and its ability to impact and empower globally.
The good news is that inspiration is everywhere. We just have to be open to seeing and hearing it.
Quincy discusses Learning prize concepts at XPRIZE Visioneering.
As my friend Alan Kay said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." Alan is a technologist and a jazz musician. In the '70s, we participated in a group called Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT) in Silicon Valley. It was a place where artists and technologists shared ideas on an informal basis, with the goal of creating projects and performances that would expand the role of the artist in contemporary society. We anticipated the merger of art and technology that led to so much of today's digital art and culture.
An EAT gathering was similar to a jam session in that both draw their power from the informal sharing of ideas. The essence of it is the free association of many creative minds and ideas without judgment. Not worrying about being brilliant or playing the perfect notes. It's the freedom to think out loud with a group that is focused on a common goal. Visioneering reminds me of that. We just riff on topics and let our imaginations run wild. It's a process that can lead to the breakthroughs we need to solve the demanding issues of our world, informed by the compass of art and culture.
A few years ago, I attended the opening ceremony of the performance arts center at my alma mater, Garfield High School in Seattle. I was talking to a group of students, including a young man who was interested in a career in music. I asked him, "Do you know who Louis Armstrong was?" He said, "I think I've heard of him." "How about Duke Ellington?" "No." Well, that just wouldn't do.
So we created the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium, which was designed to stimulate and educate. We host gatherings of our nation's corporate and philanthropic leaders in music education and the music industry to jam on ideas about how to make music education integral to children's lives. We also share resources and network to find ways to improve the woeful state of music education in our country. QJMC now collaborates with more than 175 community and organizational leaders in 35 cities across the U.S. to reverse the endemic decline of music education in our schools - that's our Grand Challenge.
At the XPRIZE Visioneering event, we used a similar approach - but with a twist. We looked to solve Grand Challenges by creating prize competitions for teams around the world to address. I joined Nicholas Negroponte for the Learning sessions and got to riff on ideas with some amazing thinkers from wide spectrum of fields. The goal was to instill in our children a love of learning. We discussed a new learning paradigm that can transform elementary education from a relic of the Industrial Revolution to a catalyst of the Information Age. I'm pleased to report that our prize concept made it through to the top 10 Visioneering finalists.
Often times, artists don't think they have a role to play in solving Grand Challenges such as learning. But I think that they do. I believe that when creative minds from various disciplines get together, the sum is greater than its parts because each comes at the problem from their own unique point of view. That's when magic happens.
You never know where the next great idea is going to come from, whether it's music or technology or learning. So let's keep the jam sessions going.