Des Moines native and Grammy-nominated artist Lisa Dondlinger’s musical talent has led her to performances with such superstars as Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, Imagine Dragons, Rihanna, John Legend, Stevie Wonder and Michael Buble. Now, the former Miss Iowa plans to release her own album this year.
Los Angeles, Calif., is Dondlinger’s home now, but she grew up playing the violin in Des Moines. She started lessons at age 9, but began singing publicly in preschool.
“St. John’s Lutheran Church has an amazing music program and I began singing solos when I was very little,” Dondlinger said. “Des Moines Lincoln had a great music program and my elementary teachers said I was musically inclined and suggested I take private violin lessons, so I did. I accelerated in violin and every summer, I traveled around the country to music camps. I knew this was for me.”
Today, Dondlinger’s list of recent performances include performing live as an accompanist on the Voice’s finale, American Idol, X Factor, the Grammys award show and various movie soundtracks.
“I feel so blessed. I played with Celine Dion in her show for a few years and played in Michael Buble’s holiday show. I’ve had fantastic experiences,” she said.
Growing up in Iowa, Dondlinger didn’t think much about entering the entertainment industry as a musician.
“It didn’t seem to be something that’s easily accessible, but I had a wonderful violin teacher at the University of Iowa and I continued going to summer camps,” she said. “Then I won the Bill Riley Talent Show at the Iowa State Fair, which allowed me to pay off my instrument. Then I pursued my master’s degree at Indiana University, which is one of the top schools in the world for music, so I was exposed to unbelievable players from around the world.”
But after Dondligner won Miss Iowa, even more doors opened up for the violinist.
“The scholarship money allowed me to pay off my student loans and then I traveled in this position, performing almost every day, whether it was with a symphony or a public school,” she said.
After she spent a year fulfilling her Miss Iowa duties, she then won a few auditions with orchestras. At first, Dondlinger thought she wanted to perform in a classic symphony, but she doubted that choice and settled herself in sunny California at the Henry Mancini Institute where she engaged in film scoring, jazz performances, improvisation playing and more.
“I just knew that was the place I needed to be. I’ve also played on stage with America’s Got Talent, X Factor and other TV shows. I love performing live and technically in front of millions of people around the world, but my ultimate goal is to have a solo artist career and that’s what I’m working on now,” she said.
Albeit uncommon for a violinist to have a solo career, Dondlinger cited a classic violinist from Germany who has crossed over into the pop world. Her current project is to take movie theme songs and infuse them with a class music melody from the violin. She said friends will watch and share her video across social media, she plans to go on tour with a young up and coming artist and continue creating her compositions for her first album.
"I've released the piece from Braveheart and I'll be working on Mission Impossible Rogue Nation and Jupiter, then maybe Star Wars. These will be melodies people know, but presented in a fun and new way," she said.