Dana Sadava, Artistic Director

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Southern California native Dana Sadava brings fresh ideas and remarkable versatility to the podium. She is a proud alumna of Caltech (B.S. in engineering and literature) and the University of Michigan (M.M. in orchestra conducting), where she studied with Kenneth Kiesler on a merit scholarship. This season, Ms. Sadava makes her conducting debut at Opera San Jose with Lucia di Lammermoor and Barber of Seville. She recently conducted the world premiere of Steve Lewis' Noon at Dusk at the University of California, San Diego and served on the faculty of the Napa Music Festival. As Music Director of the Community Women's Orchestra, she designed their first Side-by-Side initiative with Oakland public schools, led a "No Dead White Guys" concert and several family concerts. She has been a conductor and vocal coach at Wexford Festival Opera, Banff Opera as Theatre, Pensacola Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Comic Opera Guild, and the Bay Area Summer Opera Theatre Institute. She has been featured in masterclasses with Michael Tilson Thomas, Marin Alsop, and Gustav Meier. Her work has been profiled on NPR ("State of the Arts"), Pasadena Magazine, Pasadena Star News, San Jose Mercury News, and others.

Originally trained as a pianist, she studied with Dorothy Hwang at the Colburn School, Sanford Margolis at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and Gabriel Chodos at the Aspen Music Festival. At the age of eleven, she was seen on the Disney Channel as part of the Emmy-nominated Disney Young Musician's Symphony Orchestra. She is also half (which half?!) of the piano duo Robot Owl with her husband, Jim Stopher. 

While a student at Caltech, she maintained her passion for the arts, appearing as a piano soloist with the Caltech-Occidental Symphony and playing chamber music. She received the Dean's Award for Leadership, Amasa Bishop Prize, Humanities Department Nonfiction Prize, and summer research fellowships for work at JPL and Caltech.  


Indré Viskontas, creative director

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Combining a love of music with scientific curiosity, Dr. Indré Viskontas is a Professor of Sciences and Humanities at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she is pioneering the application of neuroscience to musical training. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology and French Literature at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, her Masters of Music degree in vocal performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and her PhD in cognitive neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is also a cognitive neuroscience affiliate at the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco, where she studies the emergence of creativity in patients with dementia.

She has published more than 35 original papers and chapters related to the neural basis of memory and creativity, including several seminal articles in top scientific journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of Neuroscience, Current Opinion in Neurology and Nature: Clinical Practice. Her work has been featured in Oliver Sacks’ book Musicophilia and Discover Magazine. Her dissertation was recognized as the best of her class at UCLA and her ongoing collaborations include projects with internationally-acclaimed artist Deborah Aschheim, with whom she has created art pieces highlighting the interplay between memory, creativity and the brain, and a multi-media project exploring the interplay between musical ensembles and empathy, funded by a grant from the Germanacos Foundation.

Defying traditional career boundaries, Dr. Viskontas spends much of her time performing as an opera singer, with favorite roles including Susanna and the Countess in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, the title role in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe, Lazuli in Chabrier’s L’Etoile, Beth in Adamo’s Little Women with companies such as West Bay Opera, Opera on Tap, the Lyric Theater of San Jose, the Banff Summer Arts Festival and others. She often works with living composers and has created roles in three contemporary operas. A regular soloist with several Bay Area chamber groups, she is the founder and director of Vocallective, a consortium of singers and instrumentalists dedicated to the art of vocal chamber music as well as Opera on Tap: San Francisco, a chapter of the nation-wide organization whose mission is to create a place for opera in popular culture by producing high-quality performances in non-traditional venues, such as art galleries, bars and cafes.

A passionate communicator, Dr. Viskontas made her television debut as a co-host of Miracle Detectives, a six hour-long episode documentary series that aired on The Oprah Winfrey Network. In this series, two investigators travel the US to uncover answers to mysterious incidents that transcend logic. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and several major radio stations across the US. She was a featured host of the podcast Point of Inquiry, from 2012-2013, and currently co-hosts the popular science podcast Inquiring Minds, produced in partnership with The Climate Desk, a journalistic collaboration with The Atlantic, Center for Investigative Reporting, The Guardian, Grist, Mother Jones, Slate, and Wired. She is a sought-after public speaker and an Editor of the journal Neurocase. Her 24-lecture course called Essential Scientific Concepts will be released by The Great Courses as both a series of videos on DVD and audio lectures online in March of 2014.