While the smoke has settled in Oklahoma since fire destroyed Byron Berline’s Double Stop Fiddle Shop, yet another Okie native, Kyle Dillingham, has made something positive of a broken violin. Irony has a way of raising its head in odd ways, and the timing can often be questionable. But there is no question in what is happening in the center of the state of Oklahoma. As they say, where there is fire, there is smoke, and from the ashes of Byron’s shop, a phoenix is rising in the future of Kyle Dillingham.
I touched base with Dillingham to get a quote about Byron Berline for another upcoming article. Dillingham stated the following:
“I met Byron when I was a teenager. He had just moved to Guthrie. My fiddle teacher in Enid, Shirley Landrum, used to play TV shows with Byron years ago. She couldn’t wait for us to meet. Byron instantly welcomed me, as is his nature. He is a natural mentor, and you can’t help but become better when you play with him. He always raises the bar – he is just that good… always has a little something extra that he is waiting to release, like an overdrive! I can recall a feeling of flight associated with the chances I had to get on stage and fiddle with this man.
I always acknowledge that he is the single most direct and important influencer on my playing in my life. Every time I play the fiddle, I feel and recognize Byron’s influence in my playing – like I’m a third person witnessing it all. It’s kind of hard to explain!
One moment in particular in my career that I’m proud of as an Oklahoman was the chance to twin fiddle with Byron at the 2015 Oklahoma Governor’s Inaugural Ball. You have no idea how humbling that is for anybody. I had the idea that the two of us might play together…but for an event like that, it’s unforgettable!
When I had just started college at Oklahoma City University, within my first semester it became very clear that I was going to need a fiddle upgrade. I went up I-35 to visit Byron, and spent an evening up in his fiddle sales room trying instruments. Naturally after several hours of trying instruments and driving myself crazy, I ended back up with the very first instrument Byron pulled off of the wall for me to try. I loved it right away…but decided to try them all anyhow!
But Byron doesn’t just know instruments…he knows people. He is very smart and very observant, and even though he may not always show it, he is very sensitive, I believe. He has to be… how else could a person possibly play so beautifully? Really love the man and the fiddler, Byron Berline.
There is a lot of loss in a tragedy like the Guthrie fire this past weekend, but we didn’t lose Byron, and no fire could ever erase the mark that he has left in this world.”
We all know the story of the Phoenix rising. Kyle Dillingham is the Phoenix rising in the state of Oklahoma – and overseas. February 14, 2019 was a dream come true as Kyle released a project in Thailand, with Thai National Artist and Director, Patravadi Mejudhon, titled The Broken Violin. It’s a musical that Dillingham began composing a few years ago which incorporates fiddling, skateboarding, drumming, parkour, and other theatrical movements and techniques.
Dillingham has tied this all together in a neat package using the theme of broken violins. Together, Mejudhon and Dillingham, work with abandoned and abused children from the slums of Bangkok. Patravadi and a team of high qualified instructors are training these children to play the violin, to skateboard, and how to express themselves on stage through movement. Once trained, these children will become cast members of the play itself.
The moral of this play is Bringing Hope to the Hopeless. The debut of this musical in Thailand will be January 2020 on Children’s Day. The Broken Violin will include some of Dillingham’s original, self-composed music, as well as spotlight some old original Thai music, giving the music of yesterday new life.
Dillingham remarks: “…a boy who loves to play violin and to skateboard, but depending on whether or not he is holding his violin or his skateboard, he is either loved or hated…welcomed or rejected. Once he combines his two passions, he is able to unite his community and dissolve stereotypes on both sides.”
Kyle picked up the fiddle at the age of 10, and many thought it was too late for him. But being in the right place at the right time has paid off. Now he carries the title of Music Ambassador for the State of Oklahoma, the youngest recipient of The Governor’s Arts award, and an Oklahoma Creative Ambassador. In 2010, Dillingham and Berline were both inducted into the Oklahoma Creativity Ambassadors. This class of inductees also included these Oklahoma greats: Grahm Colton, Wanda Jackson, Jimmy Webb, Hanson, and Sandy Patty.
Kyle’s dream since a teenager has been to share his music, and change lives wherever he goes. “Music changes everything, and it only takes a little,” he said. Kyle Dillingham and Horseshoe Road (Brent Saulsbury, vocals/upright bass, Peter Markes (vocals, guitar) are known all over the world, traveling to China, and soon headed to Kuwait and Kosovo on their American Music Abroad Tour.
This band plays everywhere and every genre, but like Dillingham said, “You can always hear the flare of bluegrass.”