The auditorium is her old stomping ground, literally. As a UNCG Music master’s student, she convinced opera director David Holley to let her choreograph the square dance in the opera “Susannah.” She’d once been in an opera with a square dance that wasn’t done right.
“Look, David,” she recalled saying. “I teach square dances – and call them.” The opera production went on to win a national award. She had a featured role – and also a featured role as Beth in the opera “Little Women,” which also won a national award.
For Giddens, the awards have kept coming – for her band too. She is co-founder of the Grammy Award-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops. Her solo debut, “Tomorrow Is My Turn,” which blends gospel, jazz, blues, and country was nominated for a Grammy award and her latest album, “Freedom Highway,” was nominated for Album of the Year by the Americana Music Association. It includes nine original songs and two civil rights-era songs, “Birmingham Sunday” and Staple Singers’ “Freedom Highway.”
She has received the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Singer of the Year and the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo in 2016.
Giddens performed for President Obama and the First Lady on a White House Tribute to Gospel, along with Aretha Franklin and Emmylou Harris. She has also appeared on The Late Show, Austin City Limits, The Tonight Show, the CMA Awards, and both CBS Saturday and Sunday Morning. In January, she made her television acting debut with a recurring role on “Nashville,” on CMT.
Aside from her time in UNCG Music, Giddens has lots of Spartan ties. Her father (who received a music education degree at UNCG) and mother, David Giddens and Deborah Jamieson, met at UNCG. Her stepmother, Lorraine Shackelford, taught in the drama department. Her sister, Lalenja Harrington, is program director of Beyond Academics at UNCG.
“Excited to be playing UNCG,” she said, noting the many family connections. “And where I had a wonderful year of grad school – it’s a big part of my life!”
While on UNCG’s campus, Giddens will hold an open workshop/masterclass on the day of the concert at 10:30 a.m. in the School of Music Recital Hall. She will also meet with students in UNCG’s Old Time Ensemble.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. concert may be purchased here.