Kai Kight with violin - keynote speaker from the ONE conference 2018

Renowned violinist and speaker, Kai Kight, believes classical music and accountancy are closer in worlds than they are apart. (Courtesy of Kai Kight)

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Don’t let conformity limit you in the accounting profession: renowned violinist and speaker Kai Kight

The keynoter at this year’s The ONE national conference talks about how to adapt in an age of disruption and what represents good leadership

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Renowned violinist and speaker, Kai Kight, believes classical music and accountancy are closer in worlds than they are apart. 

Moving through notes and scales and crunching numbers and equations both require a methodical, measurement-based approach, with a clear path to an end goal, he says.

“Finding the parallels between different fields, between classical music and accounting and finance…it’s interesting to me because both of them are in the world where there is a right and wrong way to do things,” Kight shares. 

Violinist Kai Kight performs Duality, a track from his album Renegade.

As the keynote speaker of the 2018 ONE National Conference in Halifax, Kight draws on this comparison, stressing that though learning the method or set of rules is necessary, conformism shouldn’t limit you in your profession. Instead, it can be employed as a launching point for further exploration.

“It’s not that learning the conventions are not useful. It means you’ve earned the right and the competence to stretch a bit,” he said in an interview with CPA Canada. “It’s something you should always come back to but should not be your limitation. The challenge is how do I use that technique? I’ll use techniques from classical music, but I use it differently.”

This open mindset is crucial when coping in the age of disruption the accounting field is experiencing. Adapting and moving through change, requires that flexibility Kight is referencing, and an ability to detach from what you are used to, or what once was. 

“Disruption and everything changing, it comes down to attachments, and challenging our own attachment to things…that we think we don’t have the ability to change,” he says.

“Life is not a rehearsal. You learn and feel things that are real.”

Tying it back to music, Kight—who breaks down boundaries on the violin with his own innovative compositions—compares it to when renowned composer Mozart would toss the music aside during a public performance and improvise on the spot.   

“That led to the next compositions he would write,” Kight says. “It really just comes down to exploring and challenging what we have gotten used to.”

Moving forward, rather than looking back, Kight uses the analogy of a live performance over a rehearsal. In the latter, he explains, you can stop the music if you miss a note and play it again and again until it’s just right. When on stage, if you miss a note, you have no other choice but to move on.   

“Life is not a rehearsal. You learn and feel things that are real,” he says. “I can’t go back…I can only accept that I can change the music on the next note. The skill of being a great performer, is not having an obsession with perfections. It’s about having compassion for yourself in life’s toughest moments.”

Violinist Kai Kight performs Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall.

When it comes to leadership, Kight believes that the position of privilege and authority requires more than being a good wordsmith in front of a committed crowd. 

Like a cadenza—a solo typically played at the end of a piece of music—it’s about considering the points of view of those you are leading and giving them an opportunity to participate and influence the organization’s direction. That is the meaning of true diversity and inclusion, Kight believes. 

“The question, especially for people in positions of power and leadership, is what does it mean for you to bring your own music to the world, if you neglect others the opportunity to do the same?” he questions. “The cadenza is a blank space where the performer has this sudden autonomy to add their own music; to compose in this world that Mozart created. That’s what a diverse space is all about.”

Kight, a graduate of Stanford University’s design and engineering program, unites his eloquent speaking skills and innovative musical compositions to engage and inspire audiences at venues around the world including the White House and the Great Wall of China. 

Be part of CPA Canada's events

Kai Kight is delivering the keynote address, Composing Your World, at The ONE National Conference on Oct. 1. You can also get inspired at one of CPA Canada upcoming events, from personal development courses and symposiums to networking opportunities.