Who knew the University of Central Oklahoma had a musical ambassador? It does, and he's responsible for using music to create partnerships all over the world. Kyle Dillingham is his name. The 33-year-old sings, he plays violin, and he's very good at both. As a fiddler, his chosen genres are swing and bluegrass. Yes, he can play the classical stuff, and he often does, but he and his band Horseshoe Road love the folk music.
"Folk music is so popular because it stays simple," he says.
When people come to watch him, he likes them to see and hear the violin doing extraordinary things, but it's really not about his technical ability. "Historically, music has brought people together," he says, "a shared communication experience."
That's just what Dillingham's bringing to the Green Box Arts Festival in Green Mountain Falls where he'll perform, and also work with the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony.
Part of his vision as musical ambassador is to make symphonic music more relevant and meaningful to today's audiences.
"You have to create a focal point," he says, "putting a solo violin in front, letting the orchestra play new music. These let the audience encounter the music." This, he says, is what he hopes to accomplish with the Youth Symphony during Green Box in a performance to be held on Wednesday, June 27.
Dillingham is not the only talent appearing at Green Box this year. Also on the slate is a return visit by New York City's Keigwin + Company dance group. They'll be joined by the Oklahoma City Ballet and award-winning country and gospel singer Barry Ward.
The festival has grown every year, according to Oklahoma businessman Christian Kirkpatrick Keesee, Green Box's sponsor. "We've doubled the programming from last year," he says. What started out six years ago as a dance residency program featuring Keigwin + Company, has blossomed into nine days of events. It's a gift of sorts for the mountain town, long beloved by Keesee and his family, which founded Oklahoma City's Kirkpatrick Oil Company.
Green Box is kind of a big deal, having drawn artists such as Jason Hackenwerth, Sean McGinnis and Hellen Eberhardie-Dunn and groups like the Gospel Music Workshop of America and the Brian Brooks Moving Company. Keesee, though, plays it cool. "This is a very unusual opportunity. It celebrates small communities like Green Mountain Falls, Manitou Springs and Woodland Park."
And it's growing. "We've purchased the Old Falls Hotel," says Keesee. "It feels more official now that we have a facility."
He says the space will eventually be available for anyone's use, but for now it will house classes associated with Green Box. This year's workshop schedule includes youth theater, adult drawing and painting, and photography.
In the trees
There will be two art installations on hand at Green Box, as well. One from Keesee's personal collection by artist Olafur Eliasson, titled "1 m3 light." Built of steel supports, halogen lights and a fog machine, the installation produces a fascinating cube: water, light and temperature are hallmark elements in the Icelandic-Dutch Eliasson's renowned pieces.
Jackson Hole, Wyo. artist Ben Roth will create the other piece of art on-location. Roth prefers metal and wood, both mediums he learned to love when he was building a restaurant.
"I was doing a corporate retreat in Jackson Hole, and decided to open a restaurant there," he says. "Money was short, so I had to learn to work with metal and learn how to work with wood in order to get the place built."
Roth will construct a piece out of two dead blue spruce trees that have been donated by the town of Green Mountain Falls. At Mountain Road Corner along Ute Pass Avenue just before town, festival attendees can watch the artist's progress between June 24 and 27. He'll split the trees lengthwise and construct benches from one half of each, while the other remains vertical.
The passion for sculpture Roth gained when building his restaurant will have a lasting impact here too.
"The trees will remain in place," he says.