Earlier this year, Oklahoma violinist Kyle Dillingham and his acoustic trio Horseshoe Road traveled across the Far East on behalf of the American Music Abroad program. The group traveled to South Korea, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Far East Russia and Myanmar.
“Music really is the international language,” Dillingham says. "It's a way to send musicians in to hopefully bring a positive image and positive experience/encounter for the citizens of these countries."
Myanmar’s foreign relations have improved drastically in the past few years as the military junta relinquishes more and more control of the government. In 2011, it also released the prominent human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi.
"Being there gave us an incredible opportunity, historically speaking,” Dillingham says. "We were the very first American band that the Myanmar government allowed the U.S. Embassy to program publicly.”
While in the country’s largest city Yangon, Horseshoe Road participated in a media interview. The owner of the station anxiously told the trio they were the first American group to ever visit the show.
“They were asking us 'How should this interview go?',” Dillingham says. “They really didn't have any idea about real journalism and what kind of questions they should be asking us because it was such a foreign concept."
Horseshoe Road received a similar reception at every diplomatic post the band visited.
"Even going back to the Jazz Ambassadors, when the whole concept was began with Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman, [they said] there has never been a program that did so much good for our goals and our purposes within these countries,” Dillingham says.
Long before participating in the American Music Abroad program, Former Gov. Brad Henry named Dillingham Oklahoma’s musical ambassador, and Horseshoe Road celebrated Oklahoma’s centennial with international tours of Japan and Thailand in 2007.
Dillingham says the trio’s focus doesn’t focus on being the best band it can be, but doing the most good in terms of creating connections and developing relationships.
“Will it make us rich? No,” Dillingham says. “Will it open doors for our country? Will it help benefit our overall mission for the state? Yes.”