Kyle Dillingham, Oklahoma’s Musical Ambassador, said he is enthusiastic about carrying his native roots across the ocean and spreading his passion for music and diplomacy to the world.
His trio, Horseshoe Road, has been chosen as one of 12 ensembles to partake in a monthlong international cultural exchange tour as part of the American Music Abroad program. Nearly 300 groups nationwide auditioned for the program, which is administered by American Voices on behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The musicians will be scattered to more than 40 destinations around the globe. Dillingham and fellow band members Peter Markes and Brent Saulsbury will introduce their eclectic musical genre, which they call “heartland acoustic,” to the people of Korea, Taiwan, Burma and Russia.
“This program is about using music to strengthen U.S. international relations, and I think in a time such as now, it has never been more important,” said Dillingham, the group’s fiddler.
The public concerts are free and designed to reach younger and underserved audiences with little or no access to live American music. In addition to the concerts, the participating acts will have a schedule loaded with workshops, jam sessions and interactions with international music students.
“Music is one of those things that naturally brings people together,” he said.A major highlight for Dillingham and the band will come in Taiwan, with their performance with the Taipei Symphony Orchestra. Markes, Horseshoe Road’s guitarist and orchestra director at Edmond North High School, will guest-conduct the symphonic “Normandie,” written by Edmond composer Callen Clarke, as Dillingham plays solo violin.
Dillingham said he is thrilled to be immersed in the various cultures and intends to incorporate native music and instruments into each concert.
In addition to serving as Oklahoma’s Musical Ambassador, he also is ambassador in residence at the University of Central Oklahoma. Dillingham said he takes the positions very seriously and does everything he can to represent and promote the university and state on his travels.
“I am about as Oklahoman as any of us may be,” he said. “Nothing makes me more proud.”
Horseshoe Road kicks off its world tour with an at-home concert Friday at the Oklahoma Judicial Center, 2100 N. Lincoln Blvd. Already sold out, it will feature Horseshoe Road originals and the debut of some of the chamber orchestra music the band will play while abroad.
The next stop before leaving the country is March 11 in Washington, D.C., where all the American Music Abroad participants will convene. After 35 days on tour, the musicians will perform outreach work in D.C.’s disadvantaged communities.
Dillingham bought his first violin at a garage sale in Enid when he was 9 years old. Nearly 25 years later, he and his band are representing Oklahoma to cultures that likely haven’t even heard of the state.
He could not be more excited.
“It is sort of like the music carrying a thread of who we are and where we come from,” he said.