When he was a kid in Santa Cruz, Lyle Troxell would often accompany his dad Peter Troxell to the radio studios of KUSP where Peter interviewed local artists and performers for his weekly show “In the Green Room.”
Later, Lyle would host his own interview show on KUSP, “Geek Speak,” which, in fact, has outlasted the station itself, continuing today as a podcast. Also, when he was a child, his dad and mom Diana would regularly take him to the UC Santa Cruz campus to see theater, mostly Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Then, years later, as a software engineer, Lyle worked at UCSC for 11 years, helping the university establish its Digital Arts and New Media department.
All this is to say that, when the UCSC Arts Division went looking for someone to produce a media program highlighting the work of its arts faculty—someone with intimate knowledge of radio, of the art of the interview, and of the UCSC ecosystem—they could not have designed a better candidate in a laboratory. Lyle Troxell was clearly the guy for the job.
That program is “The Art of Change,” a new podcast hosted by Troxell and featuring interviews with UCSC’s Arts Division faculty. Its purpose is to throw a little light on the work of these artists and scholars, which often escapes the attention of local audiences.
“We talk about their careers, and how they make change in the world,” Troxell says. “We’re focusing on their impact on society. All of the people I spoke with are trying to change the world in some way, really trying to have their work reflect what’s going on in society.”
The podcast’s first episode, now available, features an interview with dancer and choreographer Ted Warburton, who also happens to be the Arts Division dean and the person who originally asked Troxell to do the show. Future episodes feature dramaturge Michael Chemers and digital media/games professor A.M. Darke who, says Troxell, “looks at gender and ethnicity in society and makes games that allow a person to really look at the way they think about race and gender.”
Troxell says that he feels people in Santa Cruz are generally unaware of the arts faculty at UCSC and their past work. As an example of an internationally acclaimed artist who lives and/or works in Santa Cruz below the radar of most locals, he points to Isaac Julien, a British-born filmmaker and installation artist who tackles themes of race and gender. “He’s amazing,” says Troxell. “He has three bases of operation: London, New York, and Santa Cruz. We have this person who has this international impact and one of his hometowns is right here, the same place we live.”
The podcast was produced in conjunction with a class that Troxell led last quarter on interviewing and audio producing. “Radio is different than any other medium in that you get to hear the voice of the person,” he says. “Doing a radio interview, hearing two people talk, it feels like being in bed at night when the lights are out, and you’re talking with your partner. I love that feeling and that’s how I think about the audience, that they are there with us in the conversation.”
As a software engineer for Netflix, Troxell’s day job is demanding enough. On top of that, “The Art of Change” is now the fourth podcast that he hosts. “Geek Speak,” the former KUSP program, is still going strong. “WeAreNetflix” is a show featuring Netflix employees talking about their work life. And he co-hosts a show on Silicon Valley with Michael Lopp called “The Important Thing.”
“My style is my curiosity,” Troxell says. “The biggest thing about interviewing is being really interested in the person. My mother is a painter, and she says when she paints someone’s portrait, she kind of falls in love with the person, which is what happens when you spend all this time focusing on them. And that kind of happens to me too. I just dive in and get fascinated with the person.”
“The Art of Change” is available on most podcast apps. For details, go to troxell.com.