Agile Vocalist

Agile Vocalist

Agile Vocalist is a podcast and blog about sound and the performing arts with a California connection. Its episodes explore artist careers in sound as well as music history, inspiration, performance, and ways of thinking differently about the role of sound in our lives. Agile Vocalist is for the curious, the creative, and for anyone willing to explore the connection between sound and our shared humanity. Agile Vocalist episodes, liner notes, and additional visual materials also available at: Get Sound Cocktails, an infrequent and delightful email newsletter filled with sass and stories about sound:


November 5, 2023 61 mins

Have you ever pondered what it might be like to experience a moment of tranquility amidst the chaos of daily life? Melissa Felsenstein, the founder of Innersounds Meditation, reveals how sound healing can be your haven. Melissa used this therapeutic technique to conquer her personal battles with anxiety and depression, but she's also refined it into a unique formula to certify a new generation of sound practitioners.


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What does it take to synchronize light and sound? Co-creators Rob Jensen and Warren Trezevant, talk about their work creating Sonic Runway, an art installation conceived at Burning Man. Sonic Runway immerses the spectator in colorful synchronized visuals that animate the speed of sound.

Hear the story behind their meticulous creation process, making the exhibit first for Burning Man in 2003 and how its success grew to tran...

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July 28, 2023 6 mins

What did you do this summer? What's left still to experience? Better yet, what did you hear? July is a liminal space and time to dive into the creative. This summer soundscape is an annual season pause so you can listen to July. Traveling through California, Oregon, and landing in Washington at performing arts family camp, you're invited to come along for the auditory ride. 

Catch up with any Agile Vocalist episo...

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In 2007, Tommy Soulati Shepard and Kaitlin McGaw formed Alphabet Rockers to make music that makes change. This episode discusses how they met, the wide variety of their performing backgrounds and how they, 3 professional children artists and a host of other artist collaborators use hip hop to put a child's experience at the heart of its message. 

The Alphabet Rockers mission is to create music that disrupts racism, ed...

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Exposed to cello at an early age, Cellista broke away from her classical cellist training to follow her calling to create and collaborate with other art forms including beatboxers, spoken word artists, dancers, and musicians. Her work continues to reflect on and engage the cultural circumstances she experiences around her and she produces what she calls stage poems inspired by French Realists that include pillars of music, film, da...

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April 18, 2023 7 mins

Season 2 has concluded. This episode is how you can (wherever you are!) share in the podcast festivities (listening, sending me an email). Listen as I review the guests we had over the past year, sing you a little song, and recognize some of the amazing people who've supported me in this journey. Season 3 is coming!

Listen and then send me an email- this podcast is now big enough that I don't know who you are. Re...

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Chelle Jacques is a career musician, bandleader, educator and more. In this episode she shares the story of her recently launched Daughters of the Delta Project featuring the musical contributions from the women artists of Louisiana we so rarely hear about. She also shares how she got involved with The Recording Academy, best known for producing the annual Grammy Awards. She now serves in a leadership position with the organization...

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December 30, 2022 10 mins

I talked to Frida the parrot as she was on exhibit as part of a larger an immersive art experience. This Agile Vocalist episode dives into animal sounds and share a one-of-a-kind recording of my interactions with a parrot I went to “interview.” Our interactions proved some of the most varied from any she’d had with other humans, and it marveled her owners, the hosts and artists at San Francisco’s Gregangelo Museum.

Liner n...

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Folk and classical musician, composer, arranger, instrumentalist, and vocalist Moira Smiley has a broad repertoire of mystical and passionate music that pulls your heart strings. And if you sing, you may find yourself learning something she's written. Her songs, arrangements, artistic collaborations, body percussion sequences, and more have captured audiences shifting some from spectator into participant.  

With her m...

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What’s it like to lead the edge of change in the arts? Vocalist, Marisa Winter (Diva Marisa) has done that with her career and she remains driven to offer new audiences music in context. As a classically trained opera singer and Burning Man performer, she shares the impact Burning Man has made on experiential art everywhere. Marisa’s early life vocal experiences at first caused her to reject opera, but then she fell back in love wi...

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Dr. Makiko Hirata (“Dr. Pianist") is on a mission to promote the power of music to heal and unite. 

In this episode, she talks about reconciling her training in classical piano with being a woman in music as well as how musicians have a role to play as first responders in times of climate catastrophe. She has shifted her career from being an "Olympian pianist” performer who uses performance to demonstrate ever increasing m...

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Betsy Blakeslee’s work has connected refugees with the healing power of music for two decades. She directed expressive arts programs for refugee youth in Bosnia and Croatia during the wars of the 1990s. Since 2016, her Expressive Arts Refuge team and Moira Smiley have been running similar programs at refugee camps in France, Greece, and Lebanon.

In this episode she shares stories of how her experiences as a volunteer have touched th...

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In celebration of Agile Vocalist's 1-year anniversary, this epilogue takes you back through an unexpected trend that emerged with many of my guests about creativity. The theme was this:  people are often most creative and get their sound practice and ideas... in the bathroom, specifically the shower. Cars were also a theme as havens for creating. Who knew?

Talking about bathrooms, showers, cars & visions for the arts (post-...

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December 31, 2021 40 mins

What is it like to be a modern-day disc jockey(DJ) artist? How, with sound alone, does a DJ engage people they’ve never met to celebrate, raise the energy, hop onto a dance floor, and come together for a shared experience? I talk engagement and the craft of DJing, including the craft of Dance Floor Architecture in this interview with veteran DJ, Justin James. His work leading Justintertainment, an events company with a team of DJs ...

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Growing up in England, Opal Louis Nations was passionate about soul music and followed his calling to perform it amid England’s soul and blues scene. In this interview Opal shares the roots of the painful history of gospel music and its evolution through decades of the 20th century to the 1960s. The episode includes rare music from his vast vinyl collection along with Opal's candid and brilliant humor in his short story, The T...

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This continuing conversation with Indian classical music vocalist, Vidya Srinivasan gives us insights into how she balances a multi-dimensional life with music and how music is a tool as frequently used in her work life as it is in her personal life as a creator and performer.

Vidya Srinivasan was introduced to the world of music at age 2 by her parents. Enrolled in music school at age 3 to learn Carnatic music, she gave her first s...

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Working in technology, it’s rare to find someone whose passion is as deeply embedded in the arts as it is in the sciences. With very early life training in Carnatic music, Vidya Srinivasan’s career journey is filled with insights about how she uses a music as a tool for creativity, problem-solving, and as a means for processing life's emotional rhythms. In this two-part episode, we explore her career, the basics sounds and fla...

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Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir singer Mary Ford talks about her career with the group and her life roots with the art form. Mary chose the gospel at a crossroads after nearly losing her life on her honeymoon. The power of music on and inside the body as well as the unifying spirit it brings to audiences and performers is featured in this conversation with Mary. 

Mary Ford has been a vocal performer for 45 years. She has sung a cape...

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In this conversation with audio engineer, Brian Walker, we talk through Brian's work learning the JackTrip technology. Use of JackTrip dramatically reduces audio latency while preserving original audio quality. The technology allows musicians to make music together synchronously via the internet and can be used for either rehearsals or live performances. This episode contains performance examples using JackTrip from the San Fr...

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In this continuing conversation about Jennifer Hollis's music-thanatology work (part 2 of a 2-part episode), she shares her perspective on the future of music-thanatology and Harps of Comfort, an organization she formed that has adapted with virtual music to the circumstances of Covid-19.  

Jennifer Hollis is a writer, music-thanatologist and project director for Harps of Comfort, an organization that provides virtual harp and ...

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