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Fiddling In Foreign Lands: Oklahoma's Horseshoe Road Tours The Pacific Rim

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."

Listen to Kyle Dillingham perform the Russian folk song "??? ??????" ("Dark Eyes") in the KGOU studios.

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.”  

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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