Kai Riedl: Amazing Student

June 8, 2014
UGA Amazing Students Web feature


Ph.D. student Kai Riedl has blurred the line between his academic work and creative endeavors to create an annual festival in Athens and wants to continue that work with collaborative music projects around the globe.

Expected graduation: Spring 2016 or 2017

Degree objective: Ph.D. in ethnomusicology

University highlights, achievements and awards:
-Awarded a graduate assistantship with Ideas for Creative Exploration, known as ICE, at UGA.

-Received the Janelle Padgett Knight Graduate Research Award from the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts.

-2014 TedxUGA presenter.

-Recipient of grant from President’s Venture Fund to create a UGA/educational component of the SLINGSHOT festival.

-Recipient of a project grant from ICE for the project “Our New Silence,” a collaborative project connecting musicians in Java, Indonesia, with those in Athens and at UGA.

-Created and taught several classes at UGA including “Music in Religious Culture” and “Music in Athens.”

-Worked with multiple departments across campus to create SLINGSHOT, a yearly event that connects UGA with local, national and international creative people and technologists. The departments include the Lamar Dodd School of Art, the College of Engineering, the Willson Center, ICE, Theatre and Film Studies, and the Georgia Museum of Art. Every year in March, SLINGSHOT is spread over four city blocks and dozens of venues and it spotlights international, national and local acts on stage, boundary-pushing artworks throughout the urban environment, and tech talks with leading innovators.

-Directed several musical performances at Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall bringing town and university musicians together to reinterpret the music of Java.

Hometown: Atlanta

High School: St. Pius/Crestwood

Current Employment: I’m the instructor for the new course called “Music in Athens,” and I am the director of SLINGSHOT – a music, electronic art and technology festival in Athens. I also make a dollar or two every now and then with my band Electrophoria.

I chose to attend UGA because… of the balance between the university and the rich musical environment in town.

My favorite things to do on campus are… Still, after all these years, walking on North Campus is hard to beat. The trees are fantastic, the squirrels, friendly. The small expressions of wildlife on campus always make my day. I recently saw a hawk swoop down and have a squirrel lunch, just feet from where I was walking.

When I have free time, I like… to create abstract pop songs with loops of Indonesian music that I’ve recorded over the years in Java. I’m usually collaborating on one of a few music projects during the year.

My favorite place to study is… I’m super sound sensitive, so I have to find quiet spaces where it is just the books and me. Windows also, unfortunately, just end up being a distraction–the world is just too interesting. The small graduate student study rooms throughout the main library fit the requirements of quiet and stillness that my brain needs, and they enable me to strike a nice balance between reading and meditation.

My favorite professor is… Glenn Wallis, who taught Buddhism in the religion department in the mid-2000s. His insights, direct teaching methods and wonderful balance of compassion and critical thinking were unmatched on campus for years.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with… There is a long list of people from different walks of life that having an afternoon with would be wonderful – musicians, naturalists, philosophers, great leaders, etc. Though I wouldn’t mind spending the afternoon with the Buddha. There is so much religiosity, cosmology, scholarship and rhetoric about the man that it would be fun to hang out and tell some really silly jokes with him. I’m sure he has a good sense of humor. Yes, laughing with the Buddha, that would be a fun afternoon.

If I knew I could not fail, I would… Let’s be honest, this is a pretty fantastical question. Without failure we would be adrift at almost any task. But, since “I could not fail,” I would swim with orcas for a month and take in marine life.

After graduation, I plan to… Still a ways off, but I want to work within an interdisciplinary dimension of a university or with a creative company doing what I consider to be great things. I also want to continue collaborative music projects around the globe.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be… The previously mentioned Glenn Wallis walked into the first day of a class titled “The Buddhist Tradition” and he didn’t say a word for 30 minutes. I thought to myself, finally, somebody who knows what they’re talking about. I used the same method for years when I would go on to teach that same class, but nobody held silence like Glenn.