PE051: Podcasting for Opera Companies with Andrea Fellows Walters & Brandon Neal of Key Change


“Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons because it is a time commitment. It is not something if you’re looking for some bit of fame or anything… because it’s really not worth it. But if you have something to say and you have a perspective that you want to share, that you think is important, whether you think people are going to listen to you or not, have faith in yourself and trust that your voice is important.”

Brandon Neal, Key Change

Andrea Fellows Walters and Brandon Neal, co-hosts* and co-creators of Key Change, a podcast from Santa Fe Opera, are two of my favorite people to work with. They’re as funny and engaging as you’d expect. Now that I think about it, you probably weren’t expecting that from opera podcasters… 

Before you say you are NOT an opera company, don’t tune out… this episode is not about opera per se. It’s about how an opera podcast found its voice. There are, at the very least, two takeaways in it for YOU…

Read on for more…

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“I think it’s like improv. You’ve given us prompts and we play and it’s a lot of “yes, and…” in terms of our conversation.”

Andrea Fellows Walters, Key Change

Takeaway #1

If you’re thinking about building a podcast for your organization, brand, or community, Key Change offers a brilliant example of how to craft and maintain a compelling voice within the confines of and in step with a larger institution.

Takeaway #2

If you’re considering working with a producer or you have no idea what a producer does (and, therefore, unclear as to why you’d need one), Andrea and Brandon detail the client-side of this relationship and discuss ways in which the collaboration made their show better.

Bonus Takeaway #3

There’s a RuPaul reference. In an opera/not opera podcast. 

A little background. Key Change was created to tell the myriad stories behind Opera For All Voices (OFAV), an initiative devoted to new works co-commissioned and co-produced by the consortium of North American opera companies. I was hired by Andrea and Brandon to produce the show.

Since our first meeting a couple of years ago, we’ve interviewed dozens of people, gone through hundreds of Post-Its, and successfully completed two multi-episode seasons.  

Back to my two-plus reasons for why you should listen to this episode:

#1: As with Santa Fe Opera, your brand or org probably has an established voice. If you’re tapped to create a podcast, you’re advancing that brand or org’s mission — not promoting your own agenda. Simply being a company booster or marketer doesn’t attract or hold an audience for long. But the confines imposed by your board or outreach team aren’t necessarily a hindrance to your podcast’s appeal. As Andrea and Brandon tell it, they discovered a lot of room for personal creativity and building constructive tension within their organization’s boundaries thanks, in part, to #2.

#2: Collecting the material is easy. Interviews. Music. Fun sound effects. Now what? A producer’s keen ear and high-level vantage point works in much the same way that an author’s editor does, helping to develop or refine a show’s voice. Unlike a print editor, however, a producer might also assist with low-level tasks. The rules of collaboration are unique to the project. For the Key Change team, we worked in different cities on our individual aspects of the show.

Bonus #3: Did I mention the RuPaul reference? Words to live and podcast by!

So how’d I do as a producer? Andrea and Brandon give me an on-air eval.

*As of this episode of Podcast Envy, Brandon Neal has left Santa Fe Opera to pursue a new role at The Juilliard School in New York. We are so proud and will miss him so much!


Subscribe to Key Change: Creating Opera for All Voices

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Resources, Podcasts & Episodes Mentioned

Learn more about Opera for All Voices from the Santa Fe Opera

Specific Episodes of Key Change:

Season 1 episode 1 – musical themes and choices

Season 1 interview with former general director of the Santa Fe Opera, Charles MacKay

Season 2 interview with stage director & librettist Peter Sellars

Season 2 episodes on Equity, diversity & inclusion in opera: episode 0202, 0203, and 0208

Also mentioned in this episode:

Rene Orth – theme music composer

Kabby Kabakoff – audio engineer

Podcastmusic.com – our #1 music source!

Peter Sellars – stage director, librettist extraordinaireCharles MacKay – former general director of the Santa Fe Opera

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