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2013.07.26 10:28

Martynas Levickis: the fastest accordion in the west

Sophie Bradford | The Lithuania Tribune2013.07.26 10:28

Martynas Levickis is a young man with a lot on his plate.  And he looks hungry.  Before hearing his story it was hard to imagine life could be so jet-set and glamorous for an accordion player.  But then this is someone breaking all the rules. 

Martynas Levickis is a young man with a lot on his plate.  And he looks hungry.  Before hearing his story it was hard to imagine life could be so jet-set and glamorous for an accordion player.  But then this is someone breaking all the rules.

Having hit the ground running since arriving in London to study at the Royal Academy of Music five years ago, he now finds himself facing a hectic performance schedule, as the winner of Lithuania’s Got Talent, the first accordionist ever to get a record deal and the first to achieve the top spot in the UK’s classical music charts – all while representing his nation as its official Tourism Ambassador.

At the tender age of twenty-three it could all prove too much.  But Martynas inspires confidence beyond his years. His clear-sighted focus has got him this far and will certainly take him much further still.

This is not to say it has been entirely plain-sailing.  Martynas’s path has forced him to face difficulties along the way.  With solid music studies in Lithuania behind him but no desire to leave his country, on the advice of his teachers he took the leap to continue his studies in London – a far cry from Šiauliai, where he grew up.

With only schoolboy English to get him through, he struggled to find his feet in the loud and hectic capital.  Frustrated that he was not ‘discovered’ immediately and not having made any friends, he devoted himself to solitary practice.  That and learning to look after himself.  Having a Lithuanian chef as a doting mother did not prepare him perfectly for life alone.

As is natural, Martynas found himself among London’s Lithuanian community, although there were only a handful of his compatriots studying at the Royal Academy.  He taught at the Lighthouse educational centre in East London and was involved in various projects organised by the Lithuanian embassy in London.

Yet Martynas was keen not to become part of an expatriate ghetto, believing that integration would be a better course.  His determination meant he quickly picked up the language and now speaks comfortably with only a gentle accent.  It must be the musical ear.

Martynas was a clever pick as Lithuania’s Tourism Ambassador.  He’s a natural when it comes to promotion and is spurred on by a love of his instrument.  Although popular in various guises throughout Europe, the accordion does not have the profile or respect it deserves in the UK.  Martynas feels he is the one to put that right.

Studying at the highest level, winning Lithuania’s Got Talent and achieving a No.1 album have all brought him recognition, along with interviews in the British national press.  With a punishing performance schedule and no immediate plans to move back to Lithuania, Martynas is perfectly placed to put Lithuania on the map.

Yet, for all it has given him, Martynas maintains a love/hate relationship with London.  “There are moments where I don’t understand what I’m doing here,” he admits, “despite all the musical activity I have here.  Sometimes I think people suffer so much in this city, to be really honest.  The quality of life is pretty low.  People never have time.  They don’t have time for themselves; they don’t have time for anybody else around them.  They’re always rushing – and I find myself doing the same, for no reason.  It’s a pity.”

At the same time, life as an ex-pat has given Martynas a somewhat altered (or ‘refined’, as he puts it) perspective on Lithuanian society.  “It creates a conflict,” he says.  Now that he has been affected by the British society, he is a little shocked by the Lithuanian mentality, which he describes as lacking in politeness, for example.

Still, it is easy to see where his heart lies when he discusses his life dreams, his past and present.  “I had this idea of gathering a chamber orchestra together in Šiauliai, because I also love conducting,” he reveals.

And for the future?  “I’d like to buy back my uncle’s summer house in the forest [which the family sold] where I first picked up an accordion at the age of three.  I’d like to organise a little music festival there.  And have it as my secret residence.  I would like to spend summer there and breathe.”

  

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