Not everyone you know will have a large enough vision to see your dreams. You cannot let that influence you! – Lisa Dondlinger
She’s a studio musician living in Los Angeles working in the entertainment industry. She performs on live television shows such as The Voice, American Idol, The Grammy Awards, The Academy Awards, The Tonight Show, etc. She also plays on the soundtracks of television shows such as Star Trek Discovery, The Umbrella Academy, Star Trek Picard, The Orville, etc, and movies such as The Greatest Showman, Finding Dory, Jungle Book, and Wall-E.
She record and perform live with diverse artists such as Céline Dion, Michael Bublé, Josh Groban, Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, and Earth Wind and Fire.
WHAT EDUCATION HAVE YOU COMPLETED AND WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM THOSE EXPERIENCES?
I truly believe I didn’t choose music, music chose me. I sang my first solo at age 4 and have not stopped performing since. Growing up, I never considered pursuing any other career. Vocally, I had great training through school and church music programs. I started private violin lessons at age 9 and participated in school, city, and statewide orchestras, small ensembles, and solo competitions. During high school, I toured the US and internationally with choirs and orchestras.
I continued my studies at the University of Iowa majoring in Violin Performance with Allen Ohmes, and also performing with the U of I Old Gold Singers and taking private voice lessons.
I auditioned for my first professional job while in college, and many weekends could be found performing with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra. During the summers I attended the National Orchestral Institute, studied with teachers from the Cleveland Institute of Music at Encore School for Strings, and toured Europe with the North Carolina School of the Arts International Orchestra.
One winter I participated in a Classical Winter in Jerusalem for a month. After earning my Bachelor’s Degree with High Distinction and Honors, I became the first, and still to this day only, violinist to be named Grand Champion prize winner of the Bill Riley Talent Show at the Iowa State Fair.
The following two years were spent at Indiana University where I earned my Master’s of Music Degree in Violin Performance. I studied violin with Franco Gulli, voice with David Meyer, and my cognate field of study was pedagogy with Mimi Zweig. I was a Dorothy Richard Starling Scholarship recipient and named an Associate Instructor of Violin. During my time in Indiana, I won jobs as Principal Second Violin of the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra and as a first violinist with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra.
I also attended the National Repertory Orchestra during the summer. After completing my Master’s Degree, I won the title of Miss Iowa for the Miss America Scholarship Program and competed at the Miss America Pageant. I have been so very fortunate to have many wonderful teachers and as you can see, I was not afraid to put in the work to earn many scholarships and opportunities. All of these experiences only strengthened my belief, that I was meant to be a musician.
WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU OVERCOME TO GET WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
When I was preparing to perform at the Miss America Pageant I wanted to find something really spectacular to wear for my talent competition. I shopped around for a while not finding that right look. One night I was watching a Country Music Awards show and I saw Reba McEntire wearing the most perfect outfit I could imagine. So I decided I wanted to borrow it.
Everyone (and I mean everyone!) around me saw all of the obstacles that stood in the way of me wearing that outfit, but I focused on how I could make it happen. I researched all of the music managers in the country until I found the one who represented Reba. I was then put in touch with her wardrobe designer. I could only borrow it if it fit perfectly (obviously no alterations we allowed) and they wanted me to insure the shipping and make a donation to her foundation.
In the end, it all worked out and I wore my dream outfit from Reba McEntire when I performed on the Miss America Stage! My biggest advice is to not see the obstacles, but focus on the possibilities and be willing to work as hard as you need to to make your goals a reality.
WHAT CAREER SUCCESSES ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF HAVING ACCOMPLISHED?
I would say I am most proud of recording a solo album and in turn creating an orchestral show to bring that to life. I don’t think anyone can really understand the amount of work it takes to complete projects such as these unless they experience it.
It started with an idea to combine classical music melodies with film scores that we all know and love. I built a small team of the best people to help me arrange the mashups, orchestrate, and engineer the recordings and I am very proud of what we created.
An added component to these concerts is “Super T” events. Named for my son Tristan, these concerts and events allow special needs families to experience a symphony concert without the stress of bothering other audience members.
I work with each symphony organization to offer special sensory activities. We shorten the length of these concerts and allow everyone to move around and make sounds as they might need to in order to enjoy the music.
I encourage kids to dress as their favorite superheroes because I think THEY are the superheroes! I am extremely proud to offer these “Super T” events to the special needs community.
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