Orlando, Fla., Aug 2, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).
“If you make something beautiful then the Holy Spirit can do what he needs to do,” Danylo Fedoryka, a Ukrainian-American musician and member of the band Scythian, told CNA.
Scythian rocked a completely packed house full of over 2,000 Knights of Columbus and their families Monday night, kicking off the Knights’ 141st Supreme Convention in Orlando, Florida.
On the eve of the 141st Supreme Convention, July 31, Knights, families and guests enjoyed a welcome concert performed by @scythianmusic, a popular folk rock band led by brothers Alexander and Danylo Fedoryka. Sons of Ukrainian immigrants and members of John Carrell Jenkins… pic.twitter.com/QH5K5ETIML
— Knights of Columbus (@KofC) August 1, 2023
As musicians and Knights of Columbus in their local Virginia chapters, Fedoryka and his brother, Alexander, place a great amount of importance on faith, family, and friends.
Scythian doesn’t fit into one genre. Though most akin to Irish folk, their music is also heavily influenced by their family’s Ukrainian heritage. While band members Ethan Dean and Johnny Rees bring in distinctly bluegrass and Cajun influences as well, making their music as diverse and colorful as the United States itself.
“If you are looking for something that is relevant and has a mainstream appeal, but yet is rooted in Christian principles, I think you’re going to love us,” Fedoryka said with a laugh.
As a band, Scythian aims to create community and make its audiences a part of every performance.
According to Fedoryka, his job as a musician is to “create festivals” and every concert is “almost like a mini-sabbath,” where he hopes the audience will be set free from their worries for a while so they can be rejuvenated and uplifted.
As artists, Fedoryka said that the band’s goal is to draw people toward God through “the good, the true, and the beautiful” or, more specifically in Scythian’s case, through the joy of music.
“Music will touch people’s hearts,” he said, “and that’s when the Holy Spirit can come in and do the work. So, your job is to do something beautiful and play to the best of your ability for the glory of God. But it’s not for glory. It’s a gift to make people happy.”
At the crossroads between an Irish pub and the Blue Ridge Mountains
The Fedoryka brothers grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, immersed in the rich Ukrainian traditions of their father and grandmother. As children, their grandmother would tell them the stories of the joy and festivities wandering musical gypsies would bring whenever they passed through the village.
They were raised on music, learning to play an array of instruments from their mother, who was classically trained as a pianist at the Juilliard School.
Their performing careers began very early in life, Fedoryka said, with their mother taking them to perform at Rotary Clubs, churches, nursing homes, and more.
Fedoryka shared how their mother used to say: “Your talent is not for you, it’s a gift from God.”
“So,” he went on, “your job is to do something beautiful and to play to the best of your abilities for the glory of God. But it’s not for [your] glory, it’s a gift to make people happy and you don’t get to have the satisfaction of knowing whether or not you converted somebody or changed something. You’re the one that’s planting and someone else will reap.”
The brothers started the band 18 years ago, while they were both still in the seminary. Though they both ended up discerning out and are now each married with children, there is still a very real connection between how they create music and perform and their mission to bring others to God.
To them, music is about connection. Their desire to connect with audiences is why they dedicate hours on end after each show to meet and speak with their audiences.
“We do autographs after every show,” Fedoryka said. “And that’s where we can really make that connection. I always wear a cross, so I make sure that cross is always showing. So, there’s no mistake if you want to attribute our excellence to anything other than Christ.”
Both brothers are Knights of Columbus, as was their father. So, performing at the Knights Supreme Convention was something that felt long in coming.
According to Fedoryka, what drew them in was the Knights’ dedication to defending unborn life in the pro-life movement and in helping widows and orphans.
“I was always so moved by how many sonograms they would buy for pregnancy centers,” he said.
To Fedoryka, both music and the Knights are about forming communities centered on God.
“Music is meant to be unifying. Not just sitting down and watching and crossing your arms, but you’re participating, you’re part of this,” he said. “I think that translates to everything because if you are in a parish, you’re not just showing up and just sitting there with your arms crossed. No, you’re part of it. And that’s what the Knights are about. They’re like, we’re part of this parish, we’re part of this community. And that’s the way we see music, if you’re here, you’re part of this show, whether you want to be or not.”
Every person is ‘unrepeatable’
One element that defines a Scythian performance is its distinct and infectious energy. Rather than just playing a set of songs, Scythian truly creates the feeling of being at a small-town folk festival or Irish pub.
According to Fedoryka, their faith is why they bring such energy to every performance.
“My mom taught us that if one person shows up to your show, they’re unrepeatable and they’re eternal, and you owe it to give 110% if it’s one or 100,000 people,” Fedoryka said.
“And that is what people are most touched about, that we give everything no matter what,” he added. “We’ve closed out the mainstage at World Youth Day for 300,000 people and literally the next show I think we had 50 when we came back to the States.”
While Fedoryka believes that “record labels have taken music and made it into a moneymaking machine,” he wants Scythian’s music to be about connecting with the audience.
“To make money, you need to have idols, you need to have rock stars, you need to create separation between the artist and the audience for that kind of mystique, that’s what makes money,” he said.
Scythian attempts to do the exact opposite, to break down the barriers between performer and audience, and to do it at every performance.
“As a musician, you’ll have great nights and you’ll have bad nights,” Fedoryka said, “but my mom always said, ‘That’s a child of God and that’s unrepeatable,’ and that’s definitely our faith playing in 100%. And I think that’s the one reason why we stand apart.”
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