Rhiannon Giddens will look back on 2017 as, so the song goes, “a very good year.”
And then some.
The Greensboro native, 40, is a big star in music, primarily bluegrass, with a powerful, wide-ranging voice and a gift for violin and banjo. Such a gift, in fact, that she won the 2016 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo, named for the actor, comedian and banjo player who endowed the gift. And she’s a Grammy award-winner as well, who recently gave a keynote address for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s gathering in Raleigh.
Many’s the audience member, having watched her sing and play multiple instruments and heard her self-penned songs related to the history of slaves, who’s said, “You know, she’s really a genius.”
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Turns out, there’s literal agreement on that. Giddens now has been named a MacArthur Fellow, a title coming from a foundation of the same name and with a no-strings-attached award of $625,000. The prizes sometimes are called “Genius Grants.” Giddens will use the prize, she says, to “let me live a little bit” and perhaps not be on the road with her music quite as much. She’s a writer and contemplates artistic projects outside the boundaries of music and the like.
So Giddens picks up yet another prestigious award, but she’s not ho-humming. Her drive, her determination – reasons that every award she’s gotten has been deserved.