Rhiannon Giddens Wins Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award in North Carolina
Rhiannon Giddens, co-founding member of the Grammy Award–winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, receives the 2014 Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award from St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, North Carolina, today. The Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award, created in 1981 to honor Ragan, North Carolina's first Secretary of Cultural Resources, is presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions to the Fine Arts of North Carolina.
"Each year, we honor distinguished North Carolinians, past and present," said Ron Bayes, distinguished professor of creative writing Emeritus at St. Andrews. "Honorees are persons who have, over a long period, been outstanding practitioners of their art, and who have selflessly shared their talent with other creators, working in their primary genre and beyond."
A Greensboro native, Giddens sang with family in her youth, but initially planned to be a quantum physicist. She attended the North Carolina School of Science and Math before a senior year trip to choral camp convinced her that music was her true calling. She subsequently attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the music school at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. There she performed as a lyric coloratura soprano. It was during a break from that work that she discovered the banjo.
It is through the combination of classical and folk training that Giddens has found her niche in the musical world. Giddens co-founded the Carolina Chocolate Drops with Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson in 2005 under the tutelage of old-time fiddler and songster Joe Thompson. In 2010, the group made its Nonesuch Records debut with the release of Genuine Negro Jig, which earned a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy, followed by Leaving Eden in 2012. The current quartet, which is touring the US now, features Giddens and multi-instrumentalists Hubby Jenkins and Rowan Corbett and cellist Malcom Parson. It was recently announced that Carolina Chocolate Drops will perform at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, on June 15; tickets go on sale this Saturday, February 22, at 12 PM ET. For additional details on this and other upcoming performances, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour.
In addition to her work with the Chocolate Drops, Giddens continues to make solo appearances. She performed last fall with fellow folk artists for a one-night-only event at New York City's Town Hall to celebrate the music featured in the Coen Brothers' most recent film, Inside Llewyn Davis. The event garnered Giddens rave reviews. The New York Times called her the "concert's real head turner," while Variety named her a "breakout star ... hold[ing] the capacity crowd spellbound." At a second celebration a few months later, Giddens earned a strong endorsement from the Los Angeles Times as "a star in waiting."
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