Key Note Speaker 2019 Rhiannon Giddens
Rhiannon Giddens is the co-founder of the Grammy Award-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, in which she also plays banjo and fiddle. She began gaining recognition as a solo artist when she stole the show at the T Bone Burnett-produced “Another Day, Another Time” concert at New York City’s Town Hall in 2013. The elegant bearing, prodigious voice and fierce spirit that brought the audience to its feet that night is also abundantly evident on Giddens’ critically acclaimed solo debut, the Grammy-nominated album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, which masterfully blends American musical genres like gospel, jazz, blues and country, showcasing her extraordinary emotional range and dazzling vocal prowess.
Giddens' follow-up album, Freedom Highway, was released in February 2017. It includes nine original songs Giddens wrote or co-wrote along with a traditional song and two civil rights-era songs, “Birmingham Sunday” and Staple Singers’ well-known “Freedom Highway,” from which the album takes its name.
Giddens has performed for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, appeared on The Late Show, Austin City Limits, Later…with Jools Holland, and both CBS Saturday and Sunday Morning, and dueted with country superstar Eric Church on his powerful anti-racism song “Kill a Word” (including performing the song on The Tonight Show and the CMA Awards, among other programs). In 2017, Giddens was awarded a Macarthur Genius Award and she has also received the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Singer of the Year and the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo. She has performed a recurring role on the television drama Nashville, playing the role of Hanna Lee “Hallie” Jordan, a young social worker with "the voice of an angel.”