Danylo Fedoryka — “Dan” to his friends — grew up hearing a story from his Ukrainian grandmother. In her village when she was a child, “there were no radios, no record players — just farm life, which entailed hard work.”
“Every six months or so, a gypsy fiddler would wander into the village with a fiddle strapped to his back, and all the children were sent out into the fields to let the workers know he had come,” Fedoryka continues the story. “Everyone dropped their plows and convened in a barn, where they would dance until the fiddler could fiddle no more. It was their one chance to forget about their worries and go back to life feeling a little less burdened.”
That’s the goal Dan and his brother, Alexander, set for themselves when they started playing music together 20 years ago as a band they call Scythian.
“Our job is to lead the listener into a musical experience which lets them forget about their worries and invite them into an interactive experience of the show,” he says. When they play the Walton Arts Center Sept. 10, “[everyone] will be encouraged to check their inhibitions at the door and come ready to dance in their seats — if not on their feet!”
The brothers grew up No. 6 (Alex) and No. 8 (Dan) of 10 children of Ukrainian immigrants. Their mother was a Juilliard trained concert pianist who gave up her career to have a family, Dan Fedoryka says.
“From the moment we were born, she’d look at our hands and decide which instrument we would play, so we have no memories of not playing music,” he explains. “We had music on 24/7 — and I mean 24/7! My mom would make endless cassettes of beautiful music and put little speakers under our pillows so we could be bathed in music while we slept.
“We only listened to Ukrainian folk music or classical music growing up with a few exceptions of bluegrass and other ethnic music here or there,” he adds. “My mother really believed that beautiful music formed beautiful souls, and so she tried to surround us with the most beautiful folk and classical music she could find.”
Mom gave each child a music lesson every day, Fedoryka remembers.
“My father, Damian, was not musically inclined — i.e., tone deaf — but worked two jobs to cover music lessons and the buying of instruments. He was our biggest fan and often asked for us to play for him when he came back from a long day of work.”
The kids even played together as a family band, performing at the Kennedy Center and then the Wolftrap International Children’s Festival. But by the time they got to college, Dan and Alex were “burned out” and focused on sports.
“It wasn’t until Alex was introduced to the Celtic fiddle that the flame was reignited,” Fedoryka says. Dan had taught himself to play guitar and was 22 when “Alex came to me and said, ‘Learn to back me up on the guitar, and we will see the world playing Irish fiddle tunes!’ He was completely in love with this new form of music/playing, and he wanted me to join him on the journey. What, me? Play music with other people? I accept!
“Almost 20 years later I can say that this still brings me the most joy: playing music with people I love and meeting and seeing new people and guiding them into a unique experience of the music.”
Fedoryka says Scythian’s repertoire is “based in traditional folk music, yet has an edge to it.”
“We chose to keep it mostly acoustic, and we wanted the drumming to complement the music, and so we spent a lot of time crafting our arrangements of traditional tunes and coming up with a sound.
“At our core, we always want to remain traditional, but we are not purists,” he adds. “We feel we have a mission to help people experience the joy of music, and we are willing to push the envelope a little bit to catch people off guard and thus help them enter more deeply into the experience.”
10×10 Arts Series:
WHEN — 7 p.m. Sept. 10
WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville
COST — $10
INFO — waltonartscenter.com, 443-5600