The S.B. Questionnaire: Barbara Hirsch

Chatting Music and Yoga with the Multitasking Business Owner and Recording Engineer

Barbara Hirsch at the Santa Barbara Yoga Center
Paul Wellman

“I have always worked two jobs,” explains Barbara Hirsch. “My sister has told me that, astrologically, I have to have two jobs. Work is the most important thing for me. So it’s a kind of drive.”

Of course, today, Barbara actually holds three jobs: she’s the owner of the Santa Barbara Yoga Center, founder of the classical recording studio OPUS 1, and an active environmentalist. “I do things that feel really good to me,” she says, “that are passions of mine: music, yoga, and the environment.”

Owning the Yoga Center is her newest job. “The Yoga Center wasn’t something I’d planned for,” she explains. “It came to me.” That was in 2014, when Barbara and business partner Jivana Heyman bought one of the oldest yoga studios in town, which was struggling financially at the time, and successfully turned it around.

“We realized that the only way we could save it was to buy it,” recalls Barbara, who had practiced there for 12 years, making yoga an integral part of her life. “It is great for someone like me to quiet my mind. It is the only way I am able to focus on something other than work.”

Originally from Long Island, Barbara has been a recording technician for 25 years. After earning degrees in music composition from UCSB, Barbara ran a radio show on KUSC and then got a job at SBCC as “an everything person,” teaching, recording concerts, and serving as the music librarian. She also started her music studio a few years after graduating.

Today, she records on-location concerts for the Chamber Orchestra, SBCC, Camerata Pacifica, and the Santa Barbara Symphony, among many others. “I truly have the best seat in the house,” she excitedly admits. “There’s a lot of beautiful music in this town and making a recording that’s really good is really rewarding for me.”

She believes in the power of live performance. “When you hear an incredible performance there’s an energy in the room that is hard to describe,” she says. “What performers are experiencing in front of a live audience cannot be duplicated in a studio.”

Barbara also writes environmental essays called “Ecofacts,” which started as a one-paragraph project for the UCSB Library and now are 250 words each. “I love it, learning about something and sharing it with people,” she confides.

A joy to converse with, Barbara is curious and very involved in every discussion she enters. “I’m a super people person,” she says. “All of my work involves people, not just meeting people but really engaging them.”

Barbara answers the Proust Questionnaire.

On what occasion do you lie?

When I am not able to truthfully compliment someone. In the music and arts world, it certainly happens, at least by being less than truly honest! I usually avoid these kinds of interactions. But this doesn’t mean if you don’t see me after a performance that it sucked! I might be running off to another job.

What is your greatest extravagance?

This took a while, because extravagance doesn’t come easily to me. But I realized that for me, because I am an eco-nut: more-than-necessary carbon use. It feels extravagant to drive to L.A. instead of taking the train. Or flying somewhere or, god forbid, taking a medium-length shower!

What do you like most about your job?

Recording: Beautiful music performed live and heard from the vantage points of my (well-placed) microphones. It often goes direct from my ears to my heart.

Yoga Center: I’m there in various capacities, including in class as a student, but it’s the folks. There are so many dear people there, and they are happier after yoga!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

That’s a tough one. There are so many! Experiencing pure beauty: in the arts, in people, in nature, and even better when sharing the experience with others. I guess I say “pure” beauty, because beauty is everywhere, but when extraordinary it feels essential and pure, like a form of direct communication.

What is your greatest fear?

Besides making a fool of myself? No longer being able to work and play, becoming incapacitated, becoming a burden to others.

Who do you most admire?

Again, so many! Michelle and Barack Obama. They both have filled extraordinarily challenging jobs with such grace and intelligence. I think they are spectacular human beings. In some people integrity seems always present. It’s another direct form of communication, a kind of inner beauty.

What is your current state of mind?

I don’t see a larger picture with a current state of mind — my mind is usually so caught up in details. Maybe that’s why I bought a yoga studio! I suppose I am generally happy even if generally not together. Fortunately, I manage to get it together sometimes.

What is the quality you most like in people?

Goodness that radiates from one’s spirit. Again there are so many, but to choose just one, being able to spontaneously connect from the heart with others, like a smile exchanged with a stranger.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?


What do you most value in friends?

The ability to know each other well enough to be at total ease together, conversing, exchanging ideas, laughing together. But, I’ve been thinking a lot about friends for a long time and have realized how necessary it is for my own happiness to be close to people I care for, to be able to be truly good friends, not just friends.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Being very direct.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Wow. Great.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d like to be a better host, or at least more comfortable as one. Friends gathering at a home is my favorite social situation!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would not take things so personally. And I would not default to finding fault — my own or others’.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Making it this far with good health? I have somehow created a really good life for myself. I have managed to do work that helps bring others satisfaction and maybe happiness, by reflecting their own good work out into the world.

Where would you most like to live?

I’d like to be more fluid in this way. In my more perfect world, I could feel okay about leaving S.B. and renting a place somewhere I’d love to be for a couple months. You see the world and yourself in it so differently. Novels and films do a pretty good job of transporting you; they are just not encompassing enough!

What is your most treasured possession?

My body, my mind. I’m grateful for them every day.

Who makes you laugh the most?

Does anyone not love laughing? It lights up one’s world. One old girlfriend had me laughing more than anyone. She could make me laugh with simply a movement of her head. Some people are just funny. I am not one of them!

What is your motto?

I guess I have two, my phone message and email signature:

“I hope you are doing good work and living well!”

And thanks to Dr. Seuss’s Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

None. I don’t identify with anyone.


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