Many kids are met with the decision of picking an instrument to play in the school band when they are young. For Dovas Lietuvninkas, when his time came to choose an instrument at Riverside's Ames Elementary School, he was drawn to the trumpet.
"I was immediately interested in the trumpet," Lietuvninkas said. "Having come from a singing family, I think the singing quality of the instrument really spoke to me."
This summer, Lietuvninkas was appointed as the next principal trumpet of the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra (LNOS).
Following a year as an exchange student at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre through the Fulbright Program, Lietuvninkas decided to take the next step in his musical career and pursue it professionally.
"For most of the year, thinking about a job in the LNSO was mostly a daydream since auditions for symphony orchestras are few and far between and especially since I was only planning to be [in Lithuania] for a year," the now full-time resident of Lithuania said. "Once I heard that they had announced an audition in the spring, I started to seriously consider it."
Music had always been prominent in the Lietuvninkas family, and Dovas started to practice violin and piano before playing the trumpet. He was involved as a singer and musician at Riverside-Brookfield High School and he also plays the guitar and accordion.
"Singing and playing with different groups of people really showed me how valuable music is in our lives and culture, and I knew early on that I wanted to share my love and passion for music with as many people as possible," said Lietuvninkas, who graduated from RBHS in 2012.
Moving through the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, Lietuvninkas applied to the Fulbright program hoping to travel to Lithuania, where his grandparents had immigrated from.
Lietuvninkas grew up speaking Lithuanian, attended Lithuanian school on Saturdays, has participated in various Lithuanian organizations in Chicago.
"My Lithuanian heritage means a great deal to me and I am very happy that I have this wonderful opportunity in Lithuania to really connect with my roots," he said.
In Lithuania, Lietuvninkas studied under his teacher and now-colleague Laurynas Lape, a trumpet player for the LNOS. In addition, he played with Saulius Petreikis, a multi-instrumentalist who originally was a classically trained trumpet player
After the audition was announced, Lietuvninkas said he had nine weeks to practice the material, which included two movements of a trumpet concerto and selected orchestral excerpts. In order to prepare, he practiced and performed in front of a large audience in order to overcome nerves.
"Taking auditions can be very high-pressure and stressful situations, so I tried to make the situation as normal and comfortable as possible, and it really helped once it came time to play for the conductors and the committee," Lietuvninkas said.
Lietuvninkas has signed a one-year contract with the LNOS, which performs from September to June with concerts every Saturday. In addition to musical duties, the principal trumpet is a position of leadership for the trumpet section, acting as a liaison between the conductor and trumpet players and providing feedback to other section members.
At 24, Lietuvninkas –is one of the younger members of the orchestra, whose players are typically in their 40s and 50s. But he says the real challenge isn't overcoming the lack of professional experience, but rather overcoming the challenge to improve his craft.
"There's always work to be done as a musician, always some aspect of playing that could be worked on or polished, always some new challenge ahead," Lietuvninkas said. "If I'm still able to play and teach at the highest level, [if] I can and continue to make good music, good progress, and good students at the end of my career, I'll consider that a success."