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Jazz Diva of DOR finds her Ninth Muse

Opie Bellas is back, and she’s assembled an international treasure trove of songs that she interprets with the exquisite taste, piercing emotional intelligence, and sumptuous musicality that’s long distinguished her work.

— Andrew Gilbert, jazz critic, San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News

From Fukui to Feinstein’s, Kalliope Bellesis of the Division of Research is a research study interviewer who knows her way around a jazz standard.

“The communications skills that you need to interview patients for studies are strikingly similar to those of an independent jazz artist: motivation, teamwork, good listening skills, critical thinking,” said Bellesis, who is known to jazz lovers as Opie Bellas.

Bellesis celebrated the release of her newest recording, Ninth Muse with a show at Feinstein’s at the Nikko in San Francisco in March.

Old School jazz artist

The title, Ninth Muse, is semi-autobiographical. She was named for her paternal grandmother; in Greek mythology, Kalliope was the Ninth Muse of Music and Epic Poetry.

Old School jazz is her oeuvre — music from the 1930s and 1940s, the Great American Songbook, and songs popularized in movies and Broadway shows.

Bellesis has performed in concert halls of Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa; Queensland, Australia; Vals, Switzerland; and Osaka, Fukui, and Kanazawa, Japan. Closer to home, she plays jazz clubs and cabarets in New York and San Francisco. Ninth Muse was recorded in South Africa and at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley.

Previous recordings include “How Do You Keep the Music Playing,” “Live for Life,” and “Faces,” which charted nationally — a difficult task for an independent jazz artist. Bellesis’s voice is on a California Lottery TV commercial, and for a number of years she hosted a concert show on National Public Radio.

Singing and interviewing

Lawrence Kushi, ScD, hired the veteran jazz singer for her first interviewing job at the Division of Research in 2007, the Pathways study of breast cancer survivorship. For the past 6 years, Bellesis has been working with Catherine Schaefer, PhD, on studies of bipolar disorder and multiple sclerosis.

“I find it incredibly rewarding to interact with people of every ethnicity, every age range, and various levels of education and social strata,” Bellesis said. “My music and communication skills are a perfect fit with my role as a study interviewer.”

Find the Opie Bellas station on Pandora, and visit Opie Bellas for more information.

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