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Grammy-winning artist to receive Ragan Fine Arts Award from SAU

Rhiannon Giddens

Laurinburg, NC - St. Andrews University will present the 2014 Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award to American musician and Grammy winner Rhiannon Giddens.

The invitation only presentation will be made during the weekly Writers' Forum timeslot on Feb. 20. The Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award was created in 1981 to honor North Carolina's first Secretary of Cultural Resources.

"Each year, we honor distinguished North Carolinians - past and present," said Ron Bayes, distinguished professor of creative writing Emeritus. "Honorees are persons who have, over a long period, been outstanding practitioners of their art, and who have selflessly shared their talent with other creators, working in their primary genre and beyond."

Previous recipients of the award include Gov. Bob Scott, David Brinkley, Loonis McGlohon, Kathryn Gurkin, Paul Jeffrey, Sally Nixon and Sally Buckner.

A Greensboro native, Giddens sang with family in her youth, but initially planned to be a quantum physicist. She attended the North Carolina School of Science and Math before a senior year trip to choral camp convinced her that music was her true calling. She subsequently attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the music school at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. There she performed as a lyric coloratura soprano. It was during a break from that work that she discovered the banjo.

It is through the combination of classical and folk training that works through that Giddens has found her niche in the musical world. Giddens co-founded the Carolina Chocolate Drops with Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson in 2005 under the tutelage of old-time fiddler and songster Joe Thompson. In 2010 they released "Genuine Negro Jig," which earned a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy.

According to a New York Times review, their live performances are "an end-to-end display of excellence... They make short work of their instructive mission and spend their energy on things that require it: flatfoot dancing, jug playing, shouting."

The Carolina Chocolate Drops released their studio album, "Leaving Eden," in 2012.

In addition to her work with the Chocolate Drops, Giddens continues to make solo appearances. She performed last fall with fellow folk artists for a one-night-only event at New York City's Town Hall to celebrate the music featured in the Coen Brothers' most recent film, Inside Llewyn Davis. The event garnered Giddens rave reviews. The New York Times called her the "concert's real head turner," while Variety named her a "breakout star...hold(ing) the capacity crowd spellbound." At a second celebration a few months later, Giddens earned a strong endorsement from the Los Angeles Times as "a star in waiting."

For more information about the Writers' Forum, creative writing at St. Andrews or the St. Andrews Press, call 910-277-5310 or email press@sapc.edu.

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