Musical Roots

Rhiannon Giddens makes souls tremble with a banjo.

Musical Roots

Americana artist Rhiannon Giddens and her banjo are on campus, as the MacArthur Genius musician holds the Frank Sinatra Chair in the Performing Arts. Giddens’ musical background ranges from bluegrass and blues to opera and Celtic music.

As this year’s chair, she works with students and performs on campus. And she comes highly recommended. In 2011, Giddens won her first Grammy for the album Genuine Negro Jig by the string band she co-founded, Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Since then she’s scored four more Grammy nods, and, in 2016, Giddens was the first American to win BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards: Folk Singer of the Year. That’s the same year she won the prestigious Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.

In the Sinatra chair she follows actor Taye Diggs, political satirist W. Kamau Bell, playwright Anna Deavere Smith, and the band Silk Road Ensemble. The chair was established with funds from the 14th Annual Golden Circle Party.

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