Video: Rhiannon Giddens' Keynote Addresss - IBMA Business Conference 2017

"The question shouldn’t be how do we get diversity into bluegrass, but how do we get diversity back into bluegrass?" - Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens, accomplished solo artist, co-founder of Carolina Chocolate Drops and 2016 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo recipient, delivered the Keynote Address at the 2017 Business Conference September 26 in Raleigh, NC. She offered a well-researched call for bringing diversity back to bluegrass as part of her Keynote Address at IBMA's 2017 Business Conference. She reclaimed the roots of bluegrass in a variety of traditions beyond the oft-referenced Scots-Irish, including notably its African and Native American sources. Her talk was easily the most talked-about event of the conference.

Giddens’ album “Freedom Highway” was released earlier this year to critical acclaim, and last year she was awarded the BBC2 Folk Award for Singer of the Year. Giddens came to prominence with the GRAMMY award-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, playing banjo and fiddle. Her 2014 GRAMMY-nominated solo debut, Tomorrow Is My Turn,; blends gospel, jazz, blues, and country, and showcases her dazzling vocal prowess. She performed at the Obama White House, and duets with country star Eric Church on his powerful anti-racism hit “Kill a Word”; Giddens also has a recurring role on the recently revived television drama Nashville.

The impressive arc of Rhiannon Giddens’ old-time music career, her knowledge of and contributions to American roots music, and her ability to introduce new audiences to ancient tones place her in a unique position to offer insights into the music industry. She shares, as well, the archetypal path followed by so many in our community: she learned bluegrass from an early age from family members who were bluegrass musicians.

Notes IBMA executive director, Paul Schiminger, “Rhiannon Giddens has achieved both critical acclaim and great career success by merging elements of old-time, folk, jazz, country, and bluegrass to reach whole new audiences. Her passion for American roots music, along with her thoughtful and purposeful career, provides each of us a lens through which we can see beyond our own barriers.”

[Please note: There is a brief gap in the video midway through.]

Find a full transcript of Giddens’ 2017 IBMA Keynote Address on our website here.