Music Faculty Spotlight: Dainius Vaičekonis

I have taught SPU private piano lessons, piano ensemble, beginning keyboard, and music theory classes since 2014.

I was born in Vilnius, Lithuania.  It is almost as if my parents chose the profession of music for me by naming me Dainius. In Lithuanian, my name means “singer” or “troubadour.” My dad, who was well-known choir conductor in my country, noticed early my musical gifts.  I entered the Čiurlionis National School of Arts for gifted children, where I received well-rounded musical and general K-11 education and was majoring in piano. Music surrounded my childhood and youth, and my dad introduced me to different genres of music including opera, choral and symphonic music.  However, I stuck to piano because I felt this is my own.

My childhood and youth coincided with the period of Cold War after my country was occupied during World War II by Soviet Union. Because of the communist regime I grew up without the freedom of being able to say openly what I thought. My family, along with other Christians, had to practice religion and celebrate Christian holidays secretly. Through many injustice and sufferings I faced in my youth, my faith remained constant, and music to me was as a form of self-expression.  It is hard to describe the joy and excitement of the time when Lithuania restored independence from the Soviet Union in late 80’s – early 90’s. I am proud that I was a witness and took active part in the extraordinary events of the Singing Revolution.  

When I finished my BM degree from Lithuanian Music Academy I was teaching and performing in Lithuania and Europe. A few years later I was invited by an American professor to pursue my master’s degree in piano performance. Upon completing the program, my wife and I decided to continue our graduate studies in the US.  We fell in love with Seattle, and it became our home since. I received the fellowship for DMA studies at the University of Washington, and as I completed my doctorate degree my career started in full swing.

I was adjunct faculty and staff at many different campuses across Washington including Western Washington University, Shoreline Community College, and Music Works Northwest.  Prior to SPU, I was Artist-in-residence at the University of Washington.  I was a soloist with many orchestras of the America’s Northwest region, performing two or three concert programs a year, giving lectures and recitals in universities and concert venues in US and Europe.  As piano pedagogue I managed to maintain large private studio.  My students successfully participate and become winners in piano festivals and competitions, pursue piano performance degrees in universities or continue pianist’s careers. 

I am blessed and honored to be able to realize myself as a professor, artist and scholar in the Seattle Pacific University.  My colleagues of the Music Department is true inspiration to me, their artistry and dedication to the students and the future of young generation continue to amaze me.  I believe, through deep learning and sincere practicing my students will become not only better musicians, but also better people.  I hope music will shape their character, and through music they will be able to inspire others.

I teach music composition, black music studies, and theology of music and worship. Since September 2004, I have found Seattle Pacific University to be a place I am able to live out my vocation as professor, scholar, artist, and composer in the classroom, our Chapel services, and other co-curricular activities on campus.

My parents, who were Missionary Baptist pastors in Detroit, first prompted me to explore music. At age 13, I joined the church choir and haven’t looked back since. In 1992, I moved from the Midwest, where I was an assistant professor of composition on the tenure track at the University of Michigan, to the Northwest, to take a job as a music pastor. My colleagues thought I was crazy for leaving such a secure position for a music pastor job. But as it turns out, moving to Seattle was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me.

I had also been touring as a contemporary Christian music rock worship band singer with Maranatha Music and Integrity Media for more than 15 years. I also had experience as an orchestral classical music composer, and conducted symphonies and chamber orchestras all over the country. [Editor’s note: his works have been performed by the Cascade Youth Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Ann Arbor Symphony, Canton Symphony Orchestra, New Haven Symphony, Savannah Symphony, and New World Theater Orchestra; and have earned him numerous awards and grants.] After September 11, 2001, however, I found myself in need of a more financially secure job. And then in 2004 God called me to serve at Seattle Pacific University as minister of worship music in Campus Ministries.

Later, in 2007, Seattle Pacific University offered me a part-time assistant professor of music post along with the opportunity to oversee University Ministries and the Center for Worship. My faith led me to believe that God had invited me to return to academia, serving the next generation of artists, musicians, and music pastors through the vocation of teaching. I had begun to visualize how this wonderful fusion of vocation, in context, as scholar, college pastor, and professor was my niche. For me, serving students in ministry and teaching in the classroom are jointly fitted together — each informs the other. I am a practitioner. I am a teacher with a pastor’s heart.

A highlight of my journey at Seattle Pacific was bringing to fruition “The Kingdom and The Gospel” recording project (available on iTunes) in February 2009. The worship arts ensemble class I was teaching presented a contemporary sacred music concert at a popular nightclub in downtown Seattle. The idea of “engaging the culture” with sacred song was a way to take the students’ classwork to the marketplace, a reality all young student scholar-artists must face at some point.

Eric Johnson

Student Eric Johnson shares about his experience in the Music Department.

Sprezzatura Trio

Meet the members of the Sprezzatura Trio, a music ensemble comprising three SPU alumnae.