UNCG Magazine

UNCG alumna Rhiannon Giddens wins Grammy

Rhiannon Giddens has won her first Grammy Award as a solo artist.

“They’re Calling Me Home” won in the Best Folk Album category. The album was recorded by Giddens with multi-instrumentalist/percussionist Francesco Turrisi in Ireland during the pandemic.

The Grammy Awards ceremony was held Sunday, April 3. 

Her Americana band Carolina Chocolate Drops had won one Grammy and was nominated for another Grammy. Giddens, along with Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson, founded that influential string band group, inspired by Black string band artists such as Alamance County’s Joe Thompson.

A jam session/class at UNCG (Oct. 2017)

As a solo artist, she has received six Grammy nominations in total.

Giddens was the UNCG commencement speaker in December 2020. At that online ceremony, she recounted the education experiences she “packed a lot” into her one year in the graduate program. She noted her voice teacher, Levone Tobin Scott. She recalled her two operas while a UNCG student, “Little Women” and “Susannah” – and that David Holley allowed her to choreograph the square dance for the latter. She learned about entrepreneurship and the business of having a career in music. She ended the commencement address with the title song from her soon-to-be-release album, “They’re Calling Me Home.” 

December 2020, Rhiannon Giddens

When she had presented a special one-hour online concert for UNCG alumni during Homecoming 2020, she’d ended with “They’re Calling Me Home,” as well.

Giddens has many UNCG ties. Aside from her time as a graduate student, she has performed here several times, given masterclasses, and jammed with UNCG Music students. She and Turrisi gave a 2018 Q&A where she spoke of her upcoming projects, including writing an opera on Omar ibn Said.

2018 Q&A in EUC Auditorium (l-r, Dr. Omar Ali, Giddens, Turrisi)

Her sister, Dr. Lalenja Harrington’17 PhD, is a faculty member in the School of Education’s Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations department as well as in the Integrative Community Studies program (also known as Beyond Academics). Her father, David Giddens ’71, is an alumnus who performed music as a UNCG student. Her step-mother, Lorraine Shackelford, was a longtime professor. 

Other artists nominated in the category included Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tyler Childers, Madison Cunningham, and Sarah Jarosz. 

By Mike Harris, UNCG Magazine
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications


Updated 4.6.2022, 10:30 a.m.

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