The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Grammy-nominated violinist returns to Iowa to launch solo album

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Hieu
Lisa Dondlinger, a violinist and former Miss Iowa, plays her violin outside the Main Library. Dondlinger returned from Los Angeles to debut her first solo album. ( Hieu Nguyen/The Daily Iowan)

Lisa Dondlinger, a University of Iowa graduate, has flown back to the Hawkeye State from California to launch her new solo album. The Daily Iowan had a chance to sit down with Dondlinger while she visited Iowa City.

By Jim Geerdes

[email protected]

A University of Iowa alumna and violinist returned to her home state to launch her first solo album.

Lisa Dondlinger, a native of Des Moines, will be in the Quad Cities today through Saturday débuting Movies and the Masters.

The beginning of her career featured an appearance in the Bill Riley Talent Show at the Iowa State Fair, which she won playing the violin. Representatives of the Miss Iowa pageant noticed her accomplishment and asked her to participate in that competition.

At first, Dondlinger said she was hesitant and unsure if the pageant matched her academic and musical values.

“When they first called, I said, ‘No,’ ” Dondlinger said. “I was a very serious violinist and a very serious academic. But then I talked to them more and after learning that they were the biggest scholarship organization for women and what they were about, I decided to go for it.”

The following year, the violinist won the Miss Iowa pageant, which she said encouraged her to pursue the instrument as a career. After spending a year fulfilling Miss Iowa requirements, Dondlinger moved to Los Angeles to start a professional career.

“I was very fortunate to be in Iowa where everyone supports each other,” Dondlinger said. “I moved to LA, and the competition was very fierce. But that’s where the jobs I wanted were.”

Despite the competition, Dondlinger successfully found gigs at all levels of the music industry. She has accompanied musicians such as Celine Dion, Rihanna, and Beyoncé.

“Celine Dion is the true measure of what I think a graceful artist should be,” Dondlinger said. “She has been all around the music industry, and she hasn’t lost herself in that.”

Dondlinger stays grounded with her passion for playing the violin. She said she has been playing the violin for 30 years and finds fulfillment in it every day.

“The cool thing is I still enjoy practicing,” Dondlinger said. “The main reason I did this [album] is that I wanted to keep pushing myself. I’ve already played with a lot of the main artists, TV shows, and movie soundtracks. I want to create and keep growing.”

Expecting more is what keeps Dondlinger going. Her drive to excel has propelled her to release a solo album, something not many violinists do, she said. Her goal is to spread her love of classical music to an audience that has misconceptions of its style.

“I want to change the perception of what a violin can do,” she said.

By combining well-known movie soundtracks and classical music, Dondlinger aims to create a style that is unique to her.

“I’d hear melodies in my head of a movie soundtrack, then I’d hear a classical melody that would go well with it,” Dondlinger said. “Then we would orchestrate it for a full orchestra, and add a solo violin, and make it work.”

A Hawkeye at heart, Dondlinger said returning to Iowa to release her first solo album is a “super special” experience she cherishes.

“[Returning to the state] is super special,” she said.  “This is where I got most of my early training. It’s great to be back at such a beautiful, open campus. I’m very proud of my alma mater. I feel really connected.”

More to Discover