Rhiannon Giddens Named Music Director of 77th Ojai Music Festival: June 8 to 11, 2023
“I am so excited to get to work with the Ojai Music Festival as Music Director for 2023. My experience as a performer there last year was one of the best festival experiences I’ve had – I was able to sit at the crossroads of all that I am artistically and feel fully supported by Ara and the staff and audience of Ojai each time. I look forward to building on that feeling with the artists that we’re bringing out next year; the future is in celebration of how we come together as humans – despite boxes, boundaries, and borders thrown up with the intent to keep us apart. – Rhiannon Giddens, 2023 Ojai Festival Music Director
“I am so thrilled that Rhiannon Giddens accepted my invitation to become Music Director of the 2023 Ojai Music Festival. I have boundless admiration for Rhiannon as both a compelling musician and as an extraordinary artistic catalyst bringing together musical worlds towards important philosophical, cultural, and social goals. The openness and flexibility of the Ojai Festival is an ideal forum for such an artist to have complete freedom to imagine and explore.” – Ara Guzelimian, Artistic and Executive Director
ARTISTIC COLLABORATORS INCLUDE
Kamancheh/composer Kayhan Kalhor will make his first Ojai appearances at the 2023 Festival. Pipa player Wu Man returns to Ojai for the first time since the 2015 Festival, where she partnered with then Music Director Steven Schick. Multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi and the Attacca Quartet previously joined Rhiannon Giddens in Ojai during the 2021 Festival in September with Music Director John Adams.
RHIANNON GIDDENS, MUSIC DIRECTOR OF THE 2023 OJAI MUSIC FESTIVAL
The acclaimed musician Rhiannon Giddens uses her art to excavate the past and reveal bold truths about our present. A MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, Giddens co-founded the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. She most recently won a Grammy Award for Best Folk Album for They’re Calling Me Home, and was also nominated for Best American Roots Song for “Avalon” from They’re Calling Me Home, which she made with multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. Giddens is now a two-time winner and eight-time Grammy nominee for her work as a soloist and collaborator.
They’re Calling Me Home was released by Nonesuch last April and has been widely celebrated by the NY Times, NPR Music, NPR, Rolling Stone, People, Associated Press and far beyond, with No Depression deeming it “a near perfect album…her finest work to date.” Recorded over six days in the early phase of the pandemic in a small studio outside of Dublin, Ireland – where both Giddens and Turrisi live – They’re Calling Me Home manages to effortlessly blend the music of their native and adoptive countries: America, Italy, and Ireland. The album speaks of the longing for the comfort of home as well as the metaphorical “call home” of death.
Giddens’s lifelong mission is to lift people whose contributions to American musical history have previously been erased, and to work toward a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins. Pitchfork has said of her work, “few artists are so fearless and so ravenous in their exploration,” and Smithsonian Magazine calls her “an electrifying artist who brings alive the memories of forgotten predecessors, white and black.”
Among her many diverse career highlights, Giddens has performed for the Obamas at the White House and received an inaugural Legacy of Americana Award from Nashville’s National Museum of African American History in partnership with the Americana Music Association. Her critical acclaim includes in-depth profiles by CBS Sunday Morning, the New York Times, the New Yorker, and NPR’s Fresh Air, among many others.
Giddens was featured in Ken Burns’s Country Music series, which aired on PBS, where she spoke about the African American origins of country music. She is also a member of the band Our Native Daughters with three other black female banjo players, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell, and Amythyst Kiah, and co-produced their debut album Songs of Our Native Daughters (2019), which tells stories of historic black womanhood and survival.
Giddens is in the midst of a tremendous 2022. She recently announced the publication of her first book, Build a House (October 2022), Lucy Negro Redux, the ballet Giddens wrote the music for, had its premiere at the Nashville Ballet (premiered in 2019 and toured in 2022), and the libretto and music for Giddens’ opera, Omar, along with collaborator Michael Abels, based on the autobiography of the enslaved man Omar Ibn Said, premiered at the Spoleto USA Festival in May 2022. Giddens is also curating a four-concert Perspectives series as part of Carnegie Hall’s 2022–2023 season. Named Artistic Director of Silkroad Ensemble in 2020, Giddens is developing a number of new programs for that ensemble, including one inspired by the history of the American transcontinental railroad and the cultures and music of its builders.
As an actor, Giddens had a featured role on the television series Nashville.
OJAI MUSIC FESTIVAL
The Ojai Music Festival represents an ideal of adventurous, open-minded, and open-hearted programming in the most beautiful and welcoming of settings, with audiences and artists to match its aspirations. Marking its 75th anniversary, the Festival remains a creative laboratory for thought-provoking musical experiences, bringing together innovative artists and curious audiences in an intimate, idyllic outdoor setting. Each Festival’s narrative is guided by a different Music Director, whose distinctive perspectives shape programming — ensuring energized festivals year after year.
Throughout each year, the Ojai Music Festival contributes to Southern California’s cultural landscape with in-person and online Festival-related programming as well as robust educational offerings that serve thousands of public-school students and seniors. The organization’s apex is the world-renowned four-day Festival, which takes place in Ojai, a breathtaking valley 75 miles from Los Angeles, which is a perennial platform for the fresh and unexpected. During the immersive experience, a mingling of the most curious take part in concerts, symposia, free community events, and social gatherings. During the intimate Festival weekend, considered a highlight of the international music summer season, Ojai welcomes up to 7,000 patrons and reaches 35 times more audiences worldwide through live and on-demand streaming of concerts and discussions.
Since its founding in 1947, the Ojai Music Festival has presented broad-ranging programs in unusual ways with an eclectic mix of new and rarely performed music, as well as refreshing juxtapositions of musical styles. Through its signature structure of the Artistic Director appointing a different Music Director each year, Ojai has presented a “who’s who” of music including the multi-disciplinary colliding collective AMOC* (American Modern Opera Company) Vijay Iyer, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and Barbara Hannigan in recent years; throughout its history, featured artists have included Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Michael Tilson Thomas, Kent Nagano, Pierre Boulez, John Adams, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Robert Spano, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, David Robertson, Eighth Blackbird, George Benjamin, Dawn Upshaw, Leif Ove Andsnes, Mark Morris, Jeremy Denk, Steven Schick, Matthias Pintscher, and Peter Sellars.