The soundtrack to Dariel Liakhovetski’s life is as varied as the third-year dental student’s interests. Big moments in his life have come with a side of Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Metallica, Dvořák and Chopin. The Florida native grew up listening to his grandfather play the cello, a special occurrence, since not everyone can say they live with a former Principal cellist of the Minsk Philharmonic Orchestra.
“Getting to wake up in the morning and hear him practicing and playing was something I loved and seeing him perform was special. I vividly remember him performing,” Liakhovetski said.
At the same time, Liakhovetski lived with a family of dental professionals — his grandfather, father and uncle all practiced various specialties. Chatter around the dinner table often centered on dentistry — what happened at work, the reconstructions they had worked on — and it made an impression on Dariel.
“Dentistry is often incorrectly thought of as fixing a tooth at a time, but it’s really about comprehensive care,” he said. “You’re having a transformative impact on people’s well-being.
“As a kid, dentistry was always something that interested me, and as I got into my teen years, I found myself appreciating the work my dad did. I saw what an incredible impact he had on people’s lives. It was profound; he changed lives.”
As a Florida resident, Liakhovetski considered dental schools closer to home, but his mentors told him UNC Adams School of Dentistry was a great place to get an education. “I consistently heard ‘if you want an amazing education, go to UNC,’” he said, something he urges other applicants outside North Carolina to consider.
Even being from out of state, Liakhovetski said he instantly felt like part of the Carolina family during the interview process. He also was interested in specializing and knew at ASOD he could decide on a specialty during his education, since every specialty was represented in one place.
“The way the faculty cares, the technological resources students have access to, and having every specialty under one roof, drew me to the school,” he said. “You can finish a class and talk to the person who wrote the textbook. All you need is the ambition to learn when you can knock on the door, and they are right there.”
As a third year DDS student at UNC Adams School of Dentistry, with his next goal set on specializing in prosthodontics, Liakhovetski has continued to pursue both passions — music and
dentistry — as he works toward a professional dentalcareer while also performing with his brother Emil, who is a soon-to-be specialist in periodontics. The brothers have even appeared on “America’s Got Talent” in 2014, making it all the way to the finals.
Liakhovetski first picked up a cello at age 4, but he had heard the music since he was a baby — playing in his home, the bow’s strings plucking the perfect notes to classical favorites. He learned to play the big names — Bach, Chopin — but as a modern man, he was more attracted to rock ’n roll — Green Day and Nirvana. The brothers learned to play first in unison with his grandfather; then as a duet, he and his brother playing one part, his grandfather the counterpoint; and finally, as a trio.
“He taught us to listen,” Liakhovetski said. “We were playing and listening to the other person’s every note, so it syncs up with them.”
At 14 and 16, respectively, Dariel and Emil found success in unique duets, recording themselves playing modern rock songs on the cello and posting their performances on YouTube.
“As the years went on, we started experimenting with different genres. We were classically trained, but we played AC/DC, Metallica, or Nirvana,” he said. “At first, we didn’t know if [our grandfather would] like it. We’d tell him this is what we’re playing, and it was fun to introduce him to new stuff. He was on board with us experimenting. That’s how cellists rebel, we play Metallica.”
Lightning struck for the pair when America’s Got Talent contacted them, asking them to audition. “At first, we thought the offer was fake,” Liakhovetski said. “We went in front of the judges and got a standing ovation from all the judges when we played ‘Purple Haze.’ It was a turning point for us.”
That moment transformed them, leading them across the country to perform. What had begun with them playing in their house and small restaurants suddenly became large concert halls with 30,000 people watching. And while both brothers are focused on professional careers in dentistry, music remains very much a part of their lives, and they still perform together when the opportunity arises and busy schedules allow.
“We still love performing, and performance will always be a part of our lives, but our priority is our education. When we need an outlet, music is there,” Liakhovetski said. “Our priority is 1,000% focused on taking the best care of our patients.”