FFO: Violin, Classical, Jazz, Public Speaking
Kai Kight seeks to inspire through music and honesty. An accomplished and classically-trained violinist, Kight considers being a storyteller first. The musician’s ability to connect with audiences through music seamlessly evolved into a career as an innovation keynote speaker. Kight’s special brand of inspirational storytelling, highlighted by original violin compositions, exemplifies his uniqueness.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of the 27-year-old’s public and private appearances in 2020 to be cancelled or postponed. Undeterred, Kight used social media to continuously engage with fans, would-be audience members and anyone who needed a fresh perspective on – or respite from – the pandemic and its disruption. Though the communication mode may be different, his goal is the same: Inspiring people to actualize their own potential during a period of sadness and uncertainty.
Musicinterviewmagazine spoke with Kight to discuss his music, public speaking and how it feels to hit the right notes for global audiences both remotely and in-person.
An Interview With Kai Kight
Let’s discuss your solo violin album, The Performance Of A Life. The collection has a great concept, where each song is named for a different type of person or role, such as “The Conductor” and “The Observer.” How did you conceive the album?
Those are sonic representations of what those titles mean to me. And so it’s not necessarily different stages my own life, but different stages that we each have to play in our lives. At some points we all have to be improvisers and we all have to be students and sometimes we all have to be conductors and play those roles. It’s more of a kind of a holistic expression, not just chronicling my own life.
The album could have been performed on other instruments, but it might not have been as affecting.
That’s why I write on the violin. I love the textures on the violin. I love it when people come to me and say, ‘I didn’t even realize that it was just one violin playing,’ because you can find creative ways to have multiple voices that speak to each other. And you can do certain things with rhythm that allow it to feel as if there is more space than you actually have. For me, that’s the most fun challenge of playing the violin.
You fused your violin playing with an ability to tell compelling stories in public. That led to a successful career as an innovation keynote speaker. Is it also creatively satisfying?
I like that it’s actually musical content and words and speeches, because music is therapy for me. When I’ve been in very dark places, that’s what I’ve turned to. And so I take a lot of pride in keeping it that way. I don’t have any desire to win a Grammy or do all these externally-driven things. I’m more conservative. If I could just keep playing every day and use it as something to inspire the people I play in front of and spark ideas, then that’s a plus.
I had a very clear vision of what I wanted. I felt if I could just get on stage enough, I would figure out how to do that part well. So it was just a matter of getting on stage enough and just trusting that. I knew that if I gave this attention and intention, then there would be something that would have a place in the world.
What did you learn along the way as you put this endeavor in motion?
That you might not be able to have all the components of each one at the same time. So know that you might have to sacrifice a big part of things if you want to mesh and make a career out of it. And another thing was learning that the market might allow you to make a career for that – it might be unexpected and might be non-traditional because of the fusing of it. It takes patience to find that niche.
You present and perform solo for crowds as large as 10,000 people or more. How would you characterize your mindset leading up to taking the stage?
Everything up to that hour on stage is a very solitary process. I’m doing research. I’m writing, perhaps composing, practicing and taking a lot of notes. It’s a very one-on-one kind of process.
It’s surprising for others to learn that people who are on stage are introverts. It’s because we neglect to see the actual process that makes the stage part happen, [because our time] is usually filled with solitude.
What do you hope audiences take away from your music or appearances?
I rarely talk to people in the music world. Most of my audiences are from a range of different industries, like health care and education. And people say, ‘Oh, man. I used to play the violin. I feel so bad that I lost it. I could have done this. I could have had this career out of it.’ It’s sad, but I also think that’s nice, in a way.
It is beautiful to have something that you love, that you do for the entirety or however long you want in life. That has nothing to do with your source of income. If you have a passion and it’s just something you have time to do and it just gives your life, that’s great. It doesn’t have to be a career for it to have value.
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Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York, either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.