Oklahoma musician shares message of hope through instruments deemed broken beyond repair
OKLAHOMA CITY — Tucked away in Northwest Oklahoma City is a small music store. You would probably miss it if you were just driving by. It is the type of shop that you have to be looking for to find, but many years ago a young boy from Enid found it. Kyle Dillingham was already an accomplished violin player when he first walked into Inter-City Violin, but little did he know how that trip to the city would change his life. "This is Inter-City Violin," Dillingham told Fox 25 as he welcomed us into the small shop, "It's actually my permanent mailing address." Inter-City became this Oklahoma musical ambassador's 'home-away-from-home' while he studied music performance at Oklahoma City University. Dillingham pointed out the rental room of the shop where so many musicians in the making have been fitted with their very first instruments. "Lots and lots of kids have been furnished instruments and opportunities to have instruments and make music," he said leading us further into the shop. Downstairs is the repair shop. It is the other side to the rental program. Repair is where instruments that have been loved on too much, or not loved enough end up. The broken and battered instruments all sit on a shelf waiting to see if they can ever return to making music. "Seeing a broken violin is nothing new to me," Dillingham said turning to the shelf of those violins waiting for repair. "They're all over the place, this is a pretty bad break," he said pulling out a violin with gaping hole in its shell. Sometimes a 'bad break' is just that for the instrument. Those violins where the repair cost exceeds the replacement value are deemed 'broken beyond repair.' Those instruments are tossed in a box, put in storage, perhaps scavenged for replacement parts, but for the most part forgotten about. But one day, after Dillingham had just returned from a trip that took him by an orphanage in Africa, he rediscovered that box of the broken instruments. "This particular time when i saw these instruments I began seeing the faces of these orphaned children," Dillingham said, "And instead of just passing them by I felt like God was saying why don't you just pick one up and play it." Having only ever played violins that were "fit for fiddling," Dillingham did not know what to expect has he put bow to the strings of an instrument that barely resembled the violins he was used to making music with. "The sound that I was hearing was a sound that I had never heard before," Dillingham told Fox 25, "As I listened and paid a little more attention I realized this is so beautiful, this is so haunting. It's almost like this little violin was just crying out." So one by one, he went through the box of what had been deemed junk. Picking up each instrument, finding missing strings and missing parts, he looked, listened and discovered where the music was hidden. "That's what these violins have been teaching me is, one at a time, just figure out their strengths figure out where the value is and where the beauty is." Soon after discovering the hidden music inside the abandoned instruments, the owner of Inter-City and Dillingham's close friend, Dena Dietsch knew there was a bigger message in this 'broken' music. "Dena said, "Kyle get your box of broken violins let's go we're going to go to this First Step fundraising lunch,'" Dillingham recalled. First Step is an addiction recovery program in Oklahoma City. "They're always broken," Dietsch said, "They're down on themselvesall of this stuff, but they're still so worthy. But it's very hard to get it through to them." So Dillingham took his box of broken instruments to the lunch, and without prepared remarks or a planned message he simply got up and played "Amazing Grace" on an instrument he explained was once deemed useless. "When they see this instrument and it's broken and it doesn't even have a scroll and he can make music on itit does something," Dietsch explained, "It lets them see in a way, no matter how broken you are you have a gift to give." It is through brokenness that the instruments continue to inspire. "If we share anything in common with our fellow humankind it is brokenness." Dillingham says he doesn't even really think of them as violins, because the sound they produce and the technique used to produce any music is so far removed from traditional instruments. He prefers to believe he has stumbled across a box of obscure folk instruments. "It's more than just sharing the beauty of a new instrument, it's the message in the story of these instruments," Dillingham said. That message is through the music. It is a message Dillingham is working on sharing through a new CD featuring music from the broken instruments. He has performed with the broken instruments in a variety of settings, including a recent music video by NewsOK, and says that the message resonates with every audience. It is a message that shows you don't have to be flawless to create something of beauty and nothing and no one is truly broken beyond repair. "It's tempting to want to bring them down to the shop and fix them, but what I've been discovering about these instruments is to fix them is to remove what is innately beautiful about them."