Wynton Marsalis Joins Ross Design Jam About Business and the Arts

October 18, 2022 – Ann Arbor – What do a world-famous jazz musician and a business school have in common?  When it comes to the Ross School of Business and the +Impact Studio, far more than you might imagine! On Sunday, October 16th, the University Musical Society and the Ross School of Business +Impact Studio convened a one-day design jam at Michigan Ross to look at new ways of getting the arts into the hands of audiences through innovative uses of technology – using new tools and design methods to generate new formats and equitable access. This event was designed to coincide with a weeklong UMS residency with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and was sponsored by the William Davidson Foundation Director Discretionary Philanthropic Fund of the United Jewish Foundation.

Who better to headline a design event on new tools for equitable arts access than Wynton Marsalis? He is a trailblazer in leading, partnering with and supporting many culturally diverse performing artists; and the scope of his artistic outputs ranges across styles including classical, jazz and big band, and technical outputs like concert, film, dance, recordings and curation of older materials. His advocacy for the humanities and ties between education and communities played directly into this event’s partnership between the business school and Ann Arbor’s leading arts organization, UMS. Even the generative and improvisational thinking of the jam tied into Marsalis’s jazz background!

The design jam brought together an intimate group of artists, business leaders, techies, faculty, students, and arts lovers who combined their collective expertise to incubate new forms for reaching emerging audiences. The event featured a discussion with Mr. Marsalis to share his insights and concluded with attendance at a live UMS performance with Wynton and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Hill Auditorium. Marsalis shared his insights and thoughts on the interactions between the four pillars of society (religion, politics, business, and civics), which cemented the sacredness of the arts and the intersectionality of business and art. Mr. Marsalis also shared his 12 Principles of Business.  

During the design jam, five teams of 5-6  individuals each and a facilitator independently worked on their own aspect of the core question, “How might we use new tools of organizing to create more equitable vehicles for artists to reach audiences and preserve what is sacred in the performing arts?” An admittedly broad statement, it generated many thoughts and ideas.

Click the image above to see photos!

Teams worked with UM facilitators on several timed rounds of design thinking to generate and build on ideas and concepts. Techniques included context mapping, “I Wishes,” how-might-wes, dot voting, brainwriting, clustering, idea collision and vision storyboards.

Below are some examples of the table concepts generated:

  • “How might we leverage a cross-medium approach to achieve benevolent creation and control (with serendipity) and maximize exposure and connection with audiences?”
  • “How might we design an inclusive hybrid model that elevates and amplifies the artists’ compensation and art in both modalities?”
  • “How might we empower audiences as changemakers that enable community immersion.”
  • “How might we create incentives that provide artists with their basic needs and mobilize the public and private sectors?”
  • “How might we make the arts more accessible to everyone in society?”

From these concepts, teams generated ideas to address them and ultimately imagined their potential solution within the context of vision storyboards. The work of the day concluded with a “gallery walk,” where teams could learn about other teams’ ideas.

The work of this intense design jam will be shared, including all of the design techniques and a special “How To” section, arriving in the near future. This site will provide inspiration for future efforts at connecting artists to audiences. 

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About UMS:
UMS contributes to a vibrant cultural community in Southeast Michigan by presenting approximately 60-75 music, dance, and theater performances and over 100 free educational activities each season. UMS also commissions and produces new work, sponsors artist residencies, and organizes collaborative projects with local, national, and international partners. Housed on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, UMS is one of the oldest performing arts presenters in the country, committed to connecting audiences with performing artists from around the world in uncommon and engaging experiences. In 2014, UMS was selected as a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest public artistic honor, awarded annually by the president of the United States at the White House.

About the +Impact Studio: 
The +Impact Studio at the Ross School of Business is a campus hub for impact creators and innovators. Launched within the Business+Impact Initiative in 2019, our mission is to bring impactful ideas to life using business knowledge, design tools, and research expertise. The +Impact Studio encompasses a collaboration space, an interdisciplinary graduate course, a design lab for impact-focused ventures and projects, and workshops and events. Our model activates the vast expertise and research insights from across campus to support the development and launch of powerful, impactful concepts. Our work is inspired and defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for a sustainable future free of poverty, hunger, and inequity.

About Wynton Marsalis:
Wynton Marsalis is an internationally acclaimed musician, composer and bandleader, an educator and a leading advocate of American culture. He has created and performed an expansive range of music from quartets to big bands, chamber music ensembles to symphony orchestras and tap dance to ballet, expanding the vocabulary for jazz and classical music with a vital body of work that places him among the world’s finest musicians and composers. Always swinging, Marsalis blows his trumpet with a clear tone, a depth of emotion and a unique, virtuosic style derived from an encyclopedic range of trumpet techniques. When you hear Marsalis play, you’re hearing life being played out through music. Marsalis’ core beliefs and foundation for living are based on the principals of jazz. He promotes individual creativity (improvisation), collective cooperation (swing), gratitude and good manners (sophistication), and faces adversity with persistent optimism (the blues). With his evolved humanity and through his selfless work, Marsalis has elevated the quality of human engagement for individuals, social networks and cultural institutions throughout the world.