MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient and Grammy Award-winning musician Rhiannon Giddens uses her art to excavate the past and reveal bold truths about the present. With a lifelong mission to lift up people whose contributions to American musical history have previously been erased, and to work toward a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins, Giddens returns to the Amphitheater in her Chautauqua Lecture Series debut to open a week of exploration dedicated to the theme of “A Vibrant Tapestry: Exploring Creativity, Culture, and Faith with Smithsonian Folklife Festival.” Additionally, Giddens will be performing with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday, August 23.
Named artistic director of Silkroad in 2020, Giddens is developing a number of new programs for the organization, including one inspired by the history of the American transcontinental railroad and the cultures and music of its builders. Her directorship at Silkroad is among her many diverse career highlights — performing for the Obamas at the White House, serving as a Carnegie Hall Perspectives curator, and receiving an inaugural Legacy of Americana Award from Nashville’s National Museum of African American History in partnership with the Americana Music Association.
Giddens co-founded the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, and she has been nominated for six additional Grammys for her work as a soloist and collaborator. She was most recently nominated for her 2019 collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, there is no Other. Giddens’ most recent album, They’re Calling Me Home, is a 12-track album, recorded with Turrisi in Ireland during the recent lockdown.
Giddens is featured in Ken Burns’ “Country Music” series and is a member of the band Our Native Daughters with three other black female banjo players, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell and Amythyst Kiah, and co-produced their 2019 debut album Songs of Our Native Daughters. She recently wrote the music for an original ballet, Lucy Negro Redux, for Nashville Ballet and the libretto and music for an original opera, Omar, based on the autobiography of the enslaved man Omar Ibn Said for the Spoleto USA Festival, set to premiere in 2022.