The Americana Music Association and the National Museum of African American Music have partnered to establish the inaugural Legacy of Americana Award, which will be presented to roots music artist Rhiannon Giddens and late folk musician Frank Johnson.
The award will be given during the upcoming 18th annual Americana Honors & Awards on Sept. 11 at the Ryman Auditorium. The Legacy of Americana Award has been instituted to honor an artist, writer, producer or educator who has either made a lasting impression through music or inspired art to recognize the legacy of Americana music traditions. Replicas of the awards will be showcased at the National Museum of African American Music, which is scheduled to open in early 2020 in downtown Nashville.
“African American artists play pivotal roles in the tapestry of Americana music,” said H. Beecher Hicks III, CEO and President of NMAAM. “Through the Legacy of Americana Award and our new partnership with the Association, we hope to shine a light on forgotten artists like Frank Johnson, whose stories may have been lost to history, and on innovators like Rhiannon Giddens, who is pushing Americana and American music forward by exploring the past.”
“We are honored to partner with the National Museum of African American Music and present the first Legacy of Americana Award to Rhiannon Giddens and Frank Johnson,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association. “Without a legacy, art would not outlive its creator. These two exemplary artists embody the spirit of this award. Furthermore, it is imperative to continue celebrating those who have made lasting impressions or have inspired art that recognizes the legacy of Americana music traditions, and this honor is a rightful step in the direction of preserving that history.”
A MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient, Giddens has shared this dedication throughout her career by carrying on the underrepresented origins of African roots music. In the U.S., her work traces a lineage of string music back to the late Johnson, who was a traveling fiddle musician and brass band leader of the most well-known group in his home state of North Carolina during the 19th century. Yet, the formative fiddle musician and his contributions have largely been forgotten in the context of musical history after his passing in the late 1800s. The Legacy of Americana Award aims to shine a light on both of these musicians’ unparalleled influences on American roots music.
The American Music Association’s Americana Honors & Awards serve as the premier event of the annual Americanafest, which will be held Sept. 10-15 in Nashville. Giddens is also scheduled to speak on a panel alongside writer John Jeremiah Sullivan during Americanafest’s music industry conference, which will be headquartered at The Westin Nashville on Wednesday, Sept. 11 through Friday, Sept. 13. On that Friday afternoon, the two will be discussing the erasure of American music history at the comprehensive music business forum.
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