Folk artist Rhiannon Giddens will now serve as the Silkroad's artistic director, taking the reigns of the cross-cultural music institution. The MacArthur Fellow and Grammy-winning musician is the co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, in which she sings and plays banjo and fiddle.
Silkroad, founded in 1998 by Yo-Yo Ma, is inspired by the ancient trade route between Asia and Europe. The renowned cellist served as the organization's artistic director until 2017.
Giddens told The New York Times July 28 that she hopes to combine performance and leadership to bring Silkroad's message of cultural exchange through music to more people. "I've never been interested in 'Hey, this is me, I'm singing a song.' I'm more: 'This is the message I'm trying to transmit, if me singing it will get it out there.' So this is a great opportunity to bring together what I've been doing and what they've been doing."
To kick off her new role, Giddens will perform with artists from the Silkroad Ensemble artists in a virtual concert from Tanglewood.
In addition to her new leadership role and performance gigs, Giddens recently wrote a new opera, inspired by the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, an enslaved Muslim-African scholar. Omar was supposed to debut at Spoleto Festival USA in May, but was postponed to next year due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, she's scheduled to present an eclectic range of concerts and recitals at Carnegie Hall as a curator in its 2020–2021 season Perspectives series.