The Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture is proud to announce that the 2017 Excellence Award recipient is artistic director, conductor, pianist, composer, and vocalist Darius Polikaitis. He is recognized for his leadership and devotion to the preservation and celebration of Lithuanian Song. The award presentation will take place at the Museum’s 51st Anniversary Excellence Award Gala on Saturday, November 18, 2017 at the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook, Illinois. Everyone is warmly invited to attend. Gala Reservations >>>
- DATE: Saturday, November 18, 2017
- TIME: 6:00 PM Cocktails, 7:00 PM Dinner
- The Drake Oak Brook Hotel
- 2301 York Road
- Oak Brook, IL 60523
- R.S.V.P. by November 7
About Darius Polikaitis
Darius Polikaitis was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He received a bachelor’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1985, and a master’s degree from the same institution in 1987, and has worked as an engineer in the telecommunications industry for most of his adult life. From a young age, his parents instilled in him a love of music and song, especially Lithuanian song, and it is primarily in this field that he has served the Lithuanian community. He studied music privately, including choral and orchestral conducting, voice, music theory and composition, piano, and trumpet, and has been blessed with wonderful teachers and mentors, such as Milda Memllnailil, Vytautas Gutauskas, and Faustas Strolia.
Darius Polikaitis has served as the artistic director of the ‘Dainava’ Lithuanian Chorale since 1988. ‘Dainava’, the oldest surviving Lithuanian choir on the North American continent, was founded in 1945 in Hanau, Germany, by Lithuanian exiles fleeing their country to escape Soviet oppression. In 1950, as its members crossed the Atlantic to resettle in the United States, the choir reestablished itself in Chicago. Under Darius Polikaitis’ tenure, the choir has grown significanty, attracting many new members from the younger generation of Lithuanians living in the Chicago area. Today, ‘Dainava’ is home to more than 60 non-professional singers of Lithuanian heritage of all ages, brought together by their love of song and love for Lithuania. The choir has performed widely across the United States and Canada and in 2002, released an audio CD of Lithuanian choral repertoire entitled ‘Kur giria žaliuoja’ (Where the Forests Lay). ‘Dainava’ has performed at the World Lithuanian Song Festival in Vilnius, Lithuania five times, and will be making its sixth appearance in the summer of 2018. In 2014, the Center for Lithuanian Folk Culture in Vilnius honored ‘Dainava’ and Darius Polikaitis with the ‘Aukso paukštis’ (Golden Bird) award, for fostering Lithuanian culture and song festival traditions abroad.
In 1995, Darius Polikaitis founded and currently serves as the director of the Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis Mission Children’s Choir ‘Vyturys’. He is the director of the ‘Dainava’ Men’s Octet, which has performed widely across the United States and Canada, and in Lithuania in 2010. The group has released two CDs (1999 and 2007) to critical acclaim throughout the Lithuanian community in North America. Darius Polikaitis has conducted at the World Lithuanian Song Festivals in Lithuania in 1994, 1998, 2003, 2009 and 2014, and at the North American Lithuanian Song Festivals in Chicago (2006) and Toronto (2010). He most recently served as the artistic director of the Tenth North American Lithuanian Song Festival in Chicago in 2015.
In 1984, along with his brother and cousins, Darius Polikaitis released an album of Lithuanian pop songs entitled ‘Aš čia gyva’. In 1989, he participated in the Rock March across Lithuania, performing in Kaunas, Klaipėda, Mažeikiai, Šiauliai, Panevėžys, and Vilnius. In 1993, he performed for Pope John Paul II during the Pope’s visit to Kaunas, Lithuania. In 1997, Darius Polikaitis received the Lithuanian-American Community award for contributions to the field of Lithuanian music, and the U.S. Lithuanian online newspaper ‘Bičiulystė” named him the Man of the Year in 2010 for his contributions to Lithuanian music and culture. In 2014, he was awarded the Order for Merits to Lithuania by the President of Lithuania.
Darius Polikaitis has been an active member of the Lithuanian Catholic Federation ‘Ateitis’ for many years. Throughout his lifetime he has served this organization in various capacities, including membership on the High School and University Division leadership councils, membership on the North American Board of Directors, and many years of service as summer camp counselor at Camp Dainava in Michigan. He is a member of the American Choral Directors’ Association and serves as the Repertoire and Resource Chair for Ethnic and Multicultural Choirs for the Illinois Division. Darius and his wife, Lidija, have three children, Kovas (22), Daina (20), and Vitas (17), and live in Downers Grove, Illinois.
‘Dainava’ Lithuanian Chorale
Missa Brevis B-Dur – “Kyrie” by W.A. Mozart Conducted by Darius Polikaitis Soloists: Agnė Giedraitytė (soprano), Daina Polikaitytė (alto), Martynas Matutis (tenor), Šarūnas Daugirdas (bass) Concert recorded at Nativity Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Chicago, Illinois, April 30, 2017