Indre Viskontas

Indre Viskontas

Neuroscientist & Opera Singer

Sometimes where you end up when you jump is a much more interesting place than where you would have been had you continued walking along the path.


By Roadtrip Nation

Indre Viskontas


My road in life took a while to figure out.
I grew up surrounded by music, but it never seemed like something I would be able to make a career out of.
As a child of immigrants, it was always very important to my family that I pursue a stable career.
In high school, I was inspired by the books of neurologist Oliver Sacks—I found the subject matter very interesting and it seemed like a good career that my parents would be supportive of.
I earned my bachelor’s degree and went on to earn my Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience—throughout this whole time in my life, I kept my interests in neuroscience and music very separate.
After working so hard to earn my Ph.D., I wanted to devote time to the part of myself that was a musician and artist, so I went back to school to earn a master’s degree in vocal performance.
Once I combined my passions, I found that each enhanced my understanding of the other—applying neuroscience to music made me a better performer while music helped me better understand the human brain.
I’m currently a professor at San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the University of San Francisco as well as the creative director of Pasadena Opera.
Additionally, I host a podcast about science and society called Inquiring Minds.
Keep following my journey


High School
Psychology & French Literature
University of Toronto - University of Trinity College
Cognitive Neuroscience
University of California, Los Angeles
Vocal Performance
San Fransisco Conservatory of Music


Neuroscientist & Opera Singer

I'm a neuroscientist, opera singer and director, and podcast host.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Teaching / Mentoring

Day to Day

My career is a portfolio in which I do a bunch of different projects rather than one long career path. As creative director of Pasadena Opera, I spend my time directing operas and occasionally singing. As a professor, my schedule follows the academic year. I teach different courses throughout each semester. I also spend time researching and writing papers or books. To avoid spreading myself too thin, I'll devote all of my time to one project until it's done before moving onto the next.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for college students

I recommend making a plan—whether that's a five-year, ten-year, or twenty-year plan. Think of something you want to do or become, then plan out what it takes to get there. It's okay if what you end up doing wasn't your initial plan. The point is that if you have a plan to start out on, then you'll be able to take those steps and decide along the way if you're still engaged. From there, you can decide to keep going or pivot. But you can't do that if you don't have a plan to start with.


The Noise I Shed

From Society in General:

"You can't do two things well. You can't be both a musician and a neuroscientist at the same time at the level that you want to be. You have to choose."