The American pianist and composer, Vytautas Julius Smetona, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents, Birute and Julius, and paternal grandparents narrowly escaped the 1940 Soviet invasion and subsequent occupation of Lithuania. Vytautas’ grandfather, Antanas Smetona, was the last President of independent Lithuania. The family arrived and settled in the USA in 1941 via a route through Germany, Portugal, and Brazil. Vytautas’ father, Julius, was an attorney, and his mother was a musician. Vytautas’ principal teachers were his mother, Birute, and brother, Anthony. He studied theory and composition with the noted composer Starling Cumberworth. Birute was a concert pianist whose teachers included Robert Casadesus, Yves Nat, and Leonard Shure. She appeared as soloist with the noted German conductor Franz von Hoesslin. Vytautas’ older brother, Anthony Smetona, was also a pianist and a graduate of the Mannes College of Music and the Juilliard School. His teachers included Rosina Lhévinne, Nadia Reisenberg, and Leonard Shure. He was a laureate at a number of international piano competitions and made his European orchestral debut with the Hamburger Symphoniker in the Johannes Brahms' B-flat Piano Concerto.
Vytautas Smetona made a successful New York debut at Town Hall in 1976. This was followed by three additional, well-received New York recitals. He made his London debut at Wigmore Hall in 1980 and performed a live recital over radio station WQXR in New York City. Among the orchestras with which Mr. Smetona has appeared as piano soloist are the Baltimore Symphony, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. His recording debut, “Vytautas Smetona Plays Chopin Liszt, and Rachmaninoff”, was released in 1979 and was enthusiastically received. In addition to glowing reviews by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the San Francisco Chronicle, Audio Magazine wrote as follows about the album: “Fantastic technique, and better than that, a big concept of his music”.
Vytautas Smetona's musical career was interrupted in March of 1983 after a final performance given at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He returned to school, earned master’s degrees in mathematics and operations research, and became a Fellow in the Society of Actuaries. He established a consulting firm but never lost touch with music, an oasis of beauty, as he continued to reflect and study. After a prolonged absence, he has once again become active in musical life. His CD, “All the Way Back”, is his first release since 1979 and features an original composition, Capriccio in D Major, together with music of J.S. Bach, Johannes Brahms, Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, and Robert Schumann.
Vytautas Smetona has an avid interest in composing as well as performing. He has written a number of original works including his Canonic Variations and Fugue for strings. Most recently, he completed A Country Song (a work whose title belies the fact that it is a serious composition with contrapuntal elements written in the style of the common practice period) which appears in “Back”, a music video featuring Mr. Smetona. He is currently finishing his Fantasy for piano.
In addition to his musical and professional accomplishments, Vytautas Smetona is a fitness and sports enthusiast. As a college tennis player, he participated in the N.C.A.A. Division III singles championship. After graduation, he was the top ranked men’s singles player in Northeastern Ohio and was ranked top ten in men’s singles in the Midwest. He once extended a former N.C.A.A. Division I singles champion to three sets in a best of three set qualifying match for an A.T.P. grand prix tournament.