Dana Sadava, Artistic Director
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
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, and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of San Francisco. She received a BSc in psychology and French literature from the University of Toronto, an MM degree in vocal performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from UCLA.
As a scientist, Dr. Viskontas has published more than 50 original papers and chapters related to the neural basis of memory and creativity, including several seminal articles in top scientific journals. Her scientific work has been featured in Oliver Sacks’ book Musicophilia, Nature: Science Careers and Discover Magazine. She has also written for MotherJones.com, American Scientist, Vitriol Magazine and other publications. Her first book, How Music Can Make You Better, was published by Chronicle Books in April, 2019, and within a week was the best-selling music appreciation book on Amazon.
Defying traditional career boundaries, Dr. Viskontas spends much of her time performing and directing opera, 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.
She is a sought-after science communicator across all mediums. She co-hosted the 6-episode docuseries Miracle Detectives on the Oprah Winfrey Network and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, major radio stations across the US, including several appearances on the NPR program City Arts & Lectures and The Sunday Edition on the CBC in Canada. In 2017, she co-hosted the web series Science in Progress for Tested.com and VRV. She is also the host of the popular science podcast Inquiring Minds, which boasts more than 7 million downloads. As a working singer, she is especially interested in the intersection between art and science, particularly when it involves music, and her new podcast, Cadence: what music tells us about the mind is now available on iTunes.
She often gives keynote talks, for organizations as diverse as Genentech, the Dallas Symphony, SXSW, TEDx and Ogilvy along with frequent invited talks at conferences and academic institutions. Her 24-lecture course Essential Scientific Concepts was released by The Great Courses in 2014, selling more than 20,000 copies in its first year. Her second course, Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience was released in early 2017 and hit #1 on the nonfiction bestseller list at Audible.com. She most recently directed The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, a chamber opera based on the famous case study written by Oliver Sacks for Pasadena Opera.