Oklahoma music trio Horseshoe Road is spending this Fourth of July performing in Liberia, West Africa.
After a successful U.S. State Department tour of Russia, Burma, Korea and Taiwan last year, Horseshoe Road – Kyle Dillingham, Peter Markes and Brent Saulsbury – has been selected again for a 16-day American Voices’ American Music Abroad tour through Liberia.
“We are so thrilled to find out that we’ll be sharing Oklahoma roots music with the citizens of Liberia,” Dillingham said in a news release. “It’s quite an honor to represent our country, along with our great state.”
American Voices administers the American Music Abroad program on behalf of the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The American Music Abroad program is designed to communicate America’s rich musical contributions to the global music scene as it fosters cross-cultural communication and people-to-people connection to global audiences.
In cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, American Voices arranges a series of multi-country cultural exchange programs including public concerts, interactive performances with local traditional musicians, lecture demonstrations, workshops, jam sessions and media interviews and performances.
Horseshoe Road’s recent tour will focus on underserved audiences with little or no access to live American musical performances.
“Music is a way of bringing people together, so hopefully through musical diplomacy it will continue to improve the relationship between our two countries and promote a more positive future for Liberia,” Dillingham said in the release.
Highlights of the tour will be today’s Independence Day reception performance hosted by Liberian Ambassador Deborah Malac as well as a concert at the Ambassador’s residence with the President of Liberia to be in attendance.
Teaching events, including workshops with the Liberia Association of Gospel Musical Artists, the students of the AGAPE Music Academy and rural high schools and colleges throughout Liberia, are central to the tour’s objective.
Multiple other concert performances are planned in remote areas throughout their tour, as well as an appearance on Radio Monrovia’s program, “Issue in the Press” where they’ll discuss the significance of Bluegrass music.
This is not the only time they’ve traveled the world with their music. The band completed a tour of Thailand in 2008, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, which commemorated the 175th anniversary of relations between the United States and the Kingdom of Thailand. It was the first time an American band had ever performed in four of the five cities they toured.
The U.S. Embassy was more than impressed with their performance; it was amazed. Ken Foster, Cultural Affairs Officer of the U.S. Embassy of Thailand, said, “Once people hear the music of Horseshoe Road they become instant fans of the duo’s home state of Oklahoma and their unique style.” Having just completed five concerts in Thailand, they were swamped for autographs and requests for their CD.
They also celebrated Oklahoma’s centennial internationally through their performances with a tour of Japan and Thailand, which was filmed as a documentary as part of an official Oklahoma Centennial Project.
With eclectic musical styles ranging from blues to bluegrass, gypsy jazz to Western swing, country to rock and gospel, Horseshoe Road blends them into an earthly genre of music they call Heartland Acoustic. “Full of surprises, our band’s passion for music can be seen in our performance – a high energy, uplifting musical experience that blends captivating virtuosity and heartfelt sincerity,” Dillingham said in the release.
Horseshoe Road is the winner of the 2011 International Acoustic Music Awards in the category of Country/Bluegrass.
Opening for the Oak Ridge Boys was one of the many highlights of 2012, as well as sharing the stage with the Charlie Daniels Band in 2013
Dillingham performs the fiddle and vocals for Horseshoe Road. At age 17, he had already performed twice on the Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville, Tennessee. He has represented the U.S. in performances in over 29 countries, earning himself the nickname of Oklahoma’s Musical Ambassador. He performed for the Princess of Thailand and Thailand’s King of Pop, and has shared the stage with Vince Gill, Jimmy Webb, Toby Keith, and Joe Diffie, to name a few.
In 2008, the University of Central Oklahoma appointed the dynamic musician as their Ambassador in Residence. Dillingham doesn’t need a translator or foreign advisor when he travels abroad representing the university. All he needs is his violin and bow.
“People are a little shocked at first because they’ve never encountered anything like it,” Dr. Dennis Dunham, Executive Director of International Affairs at UCO, said in the release of his international trips with Dillingham. “People often expect to be bombarded with information about the university instead of hearing music on the spot.”
Dillingham was honored by Gov. Brad Henry as a recipient of the 2009 Governor’s Arts Award, acknowledging his life’s work as a violinist, vocalist, and musical ambassador for the state of Oklahoma and for his gift to connect with people throughout the world.
As a Creativity Ambassador, he performed as a part of the Creativity World Forum in November 2010 and received a medal of honor, along with other Oklahoma greats such as Jimmy Webb, Leona Mitchell and Hanson.
Markes is the 2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and a lifelong classically and folk trained musician. He is no stranger to touring the world with his music. Before Horseshoe Road’s formation, Dillingham and Markes performed together in over twenty countries from Asia to Africa. During those travels, Markes conducted violin and guitar improvisational master classes in Venezuela, Macedonia and China, and the duo was featured several times on China television broadcasted to millions. Markes is in his tenth year as director of the Edmond North High School Orchestra and the Oklahoma Youth Orchestra.
Upright bassist and vocalist, Saulsbury started his music journey around the age of 5 when he took a liking to banging around his grandma’s piano. When he received his first guitar, he would thump around on it to mimic the sound of a string bass. This would be the harbinger of his later role as an extraordinary upright player. Before joining Horseshoe Road, Saulsbury performed in Los Angeles, the Amarillo club scene and with several Oklahoma City bands, and has jammed with the likes of Carl V. Moore Experience and Maurice Johnson.
Dillingham and Horseshoe Road will arrive back home July 13, just in time for a post-tour concert at 7 p.m. July 17 at the UCO Jazz Lab in Edmond, where they will present all their Liberian adventures and music along with their Heartland Acoustic hits and other favorites that they’ve share with the people of Liberia.
“The audience will experience what everyone on our tour experienced,” Dillingham said in the release. “This incredible evening will be filled with everything from fiery fiddling to local music that we’ve learned there.”
Go to www.amvoices.org/ama to learn more about American Music Abroad.
For information and tickets to Horseshoe Road’s post-tour Summer Sizzler concert, go to www.ucojazzlab.com.
To learn more about Kyle Dillingham and Horseshoe Road, visit their website, www.horseshoeroad.net.