NYLA Talks

Indrė Viskontas on music, brain and Lithuania


Indrė Viskontas is an opera singer, neuroscientist, podcaster and university professor. With her larger-than-life personality she’s a unique ambassador of Lithuania, the country where her parents and grandparents grew up. But how much influence should she have on today’s Lithuanian society? And how could today’s Lithuania get more connected to people like her? We sat down at her home studio in San Francisco to discuss it all: music, identity, podcasting – and Indrė’s debut on Oprah Winfrey’s show.

The music part starts from the beginning. The identity part starts at 42:40.

Indrė herself is the host of two podcasts: Inquiring Minds explores science, politics and society; Cadence deconstructs music and our brain on it.

Indrė is a professor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she teaches how to apply neuroscience to musical training

Having grown up in Canada, Indrė was already 11 years old when she visited Lithuania for the first time. But Lithuanian culture has always been a crucial part of her identity. Pictured – the wooden statue of Rūpintojėlis (“the one who worries”), a traditional Lithuanian archetype of “God suffering for humanity”.

Indrė swtiched to podcasting from TV, where she co-hosted the documentary Miracle Detectives on The Oprah Winfrey Network. The show uncovered mysterious incidents in the U.S. through scientifical view

Indrė is also a creative director of Pasadena Opera, where she works with living composers and chooses plays that defy traditional character roles in opera.

Podcast episode hosted and edited by Karolis Vyšniauskas, original music composed by Martynas Gailius. Photography and videography by Mindaugas Drigotas. The studio voice over recorded by Kata Bitowt at Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.

Further reading:

How music makes me a better neuroscientist, Indrė Viskontas’s talk at TEDxSanFrancisco

The transformative power of classical music, Benjamin Zander’s TED Talk

Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience, course by Indrė Viskontas,  published by The Great Courses

This episode is supported by Lithuanian council for culture.

Support us: