What are they
Musical composer and office manager, Lippincott
Kyle Ewalt Sings the Praises of Art and Business
The musical composer and office manager at Lippincott explains how he balances his creative accomplishments with a successful corporate career.
by Jen Swetzoff
California-born Kyle Ewalt moved to New York City in 2004 to pursue his passion for singing and songwriting. He never expected he would also spend more than a decade working in the consulting industry. But over the past 12 years, Kyle has proven himself a smart, savvy, and charismatic businessperson, climbing the corporate ladder to his current role as the office, administrative, and events manager for Lippincott, one of the world’s leading creative consultancies. During that same short time period, he has also written Top 40 dance/electronica hits with his band Kyven; original pieces for the jazz group Syncopation; musicals such as The Lucky Ones, Pumped, and Bromance: The Dudesical with his writing partner Michael Ian Walker; and most recently an Argentinean ballet score.
Kyle grew up in a musical family: His father was a guitarist in a band with Dan Fogelberg, and his mother was a flautist and singer. From a young age, he sang at his church and in the choir at his public school. In just three years, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music business from Berklee College of Music, where he studied songwriting and vocal styles with Cheryl Bentyne of the Manhattan Transfer. One summer, he formed a vocal jazz band with three other students and went on tour in Japan. Another summer, he interned at Columbia Records in Santa Monica. “I gained valuable insights by working with the marketing managers for Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, and John Mayer,” he said. “But my experience there made it very clear to me that I wanted to pursue my own artistic career.”
To do that, he needed to pay his bills, landing his first day job through a temp agency that placed him as an assistant at Katzenbach Partners, which Strategy& (then Booz & Company) acquired in 2009. Over time, he took on more responsibilities, ultimately becoming the office and administrative services manager for Strategy&’s New York headquarters before moving on to his current leadership role at Lippincott.
At ease using both sides of his brain, Kyle finds inspiration inside and outside the office. During a recent conversation with Strategy&, he discussed the importance of common ground, humility, and asking for what you want.
As a successful manager and musician, how do you do it all?
It’s hard. Sometimes, I wish I could bend time. But Booz & Company always supported my creative projects, and I’m so grateful to the firm for that. When I started working at Katzenbach, I only had the nights and weekends for art. Then, when we joined Booz & Company in 2009, I transitioned to a part-time role, working at 60 percent, which took advantage of my strengths: championing the corporate culture, advocating for administrative assistants, planning events, and managing office services. Outside business hours, I doubled down on music. I recorded two albums with producer Steven Shewbrooks, and I completed two commissions for the producers of Broadway-style musicals with Michael Ian Walker, who I’d met at Katzenbach Partners and who occasionally worked for the Katzenbach Center at Booz.
Several years later, during the time we started to integrate with PwC, I raised my hand to assist with some global initiatives. I led international conference calls with office managers from Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, for example, to share experiences, concerns, and success stories. I also worked on coordinating events and organizing our Day One experience for the merger. The opportunity to work with partners during that time was incredible, and I still consider many of my colleagues from Strategy& and PwC’s advisory practice to be close friends.
Why did you decide to move to Lippincott?
Lippincott came to me with an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I now work full time again, but I’m surrounded by people who straddle the same line I do, between the creative and the consultative sides of the brain. That’s really energizing. I work closely with the chief marketing officer, and my main responsibilities are to manage office services, internal events, and a team of 12 administrative assistants in New York, Boston, and San Francisco.
Tell me about your artistic career.
It’s threefold: First, I’m a composer for musical theater. Second, I write and record vocals for dance/pop albums with the band Kyven. Over the past 12 years, we’ve released several albums: Part of Me, In My Mind, Sample 8, Hands Down, For Commercial Use Only, and a forthcoming one that we’ll release in March. Third, I compose ballets. Most recently, I created a seven-movement ballet called Oceano that was performed by the National Ballet Company of Argentina at Teatro Colon.
What’s your creative process?
I’m constantly doing research — keeping my eyes and ears open, thinking about things on subway rides, and making notes. Once I have a stockpile of ideas as inspiration, I take time to let something explode on the page or into the recording device.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
In 2014, I wrote lyrics for a benefit concert called “Broadway Bares” at the Hammerstein Ballroom. It was produced by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, danced by 150 mostly naked, incredibly fit, and talented Broadway stars, and seen by 7,000 people.
When and where are you happiest?
In the back of the room when something that I’ve helped create is being performed. That’s the time when I feel the smallest, the most humble, and I love that feeling. It just makes me want to do more.
What have you learned in business that applies to art?
My day job gives me a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the operational things that have to happen in order for art to be successful. I’ve also learned that finding common ground and consensus among groups of people is critical in both arenas.
Who do you admire?
Leaders who have humility and who inspire, energize, and respect others. The most effective CEOs, in my opinion, are the ones who walk down the hallway, see a piece of paper on the floor, and stop to pick it up. Taking the time to be of the people, if you will, does so much more good for an organization than sitting in a glass tower.
How would your colleagues and friends describe you?
Really tall. I’d like to think they’d also say I’m lighthearted, collaborative, optimistic, and hardworking.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
Flying. My brother is a pilot, and I feel like I can weekend warrior all over the world thanks to companion tickets. I’ve recently traveled to Buenos Aires, Montreal, Madrid, Barcelona, London, and Prague.
What’s next for you?
Standing on my own two feet as an artist and asking for what I want. The exciting thing is that the answers so far have been yes.
Effective December 2016, Kyle Ewalt has moved on from Lippincott and now serves as the Regional Experience Manager at Atlassian.
Jen Swetzoff is a freelance writer and editor. Previously, she worked with Strategy& as the deputy managing editor at strategy+business magazine.
Disclaimer: Please note that historical references to Booz & Company and Booz Allen Hamilton are found in this article/section since the alumni featured here left the firm prior to Strategy& joining the PwC global network of firms.