From the Hungarian folk Dances of Johannes Brahms, to the Negro Folk symphony by William Levi Dawson, the idea of folk music being classical is age old. There have been countless composers and performers who’ve utilized folk aesthetics to make a name for themselves, and this tradition lives on, even today. Howdy – I’m Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy I’d like to feature one of today’s most innovative folk musicians – a woman named Rhiannon Giddens.

Rhiannon has been surrounded by music – both folk and otherwise, all her life. In the year 2000 she graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory where she studied opera. Five years later, she helped form a group called the Carolina Chocolate Drops – an ensemble that’s uniquely positioned to promote the rich and culturally diverse history of folk music here in the United States. As a solo artist, Rhiannon has collaborated with many others as well, highlighting the classic, or even classical nature of folk aesthetics to our lived experiences as Americans. This tune, titled Julie , is a great example of her work.

Today, Rhiannon continues her exploration of folk music as classical, with collaborators including the Silk Road Ensemble, and composer Michael Abels, with whom she recently won a Pulitzer Prize for an opera called Omar . She’s an incredible fiddler, master banjo player, world-recognized composer, and one of the most NoteWorthy musicians of our time.

Noteworthy is a production of WDAV Classical Public Radio.

Pictured: Rhiannon Giddens.