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American Railroad: Silkroad Ensemble with Rhiannon Giddens

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Rhiannon Giddens, Silkroad is a Grammy Award-winning ensemble and social-impact organization that champions equity and justice through the arts. Their latest project, American Railroad, focuses on the African American, Chinese, Japanese, Irish, and other immigrant laborers who were pivotal in building the US Transcontinental Railroad, and the indigenous communities who were displaced by it. This work seeks to correct traditional historical narratives by celebrating the contributions of these groups to America’s cultural development. Through blended musical traditions and original compositions, American Railroad – led by Pulitzer Prize-winning Giddens – offers a fresh perspective on American identity.

During a panel discussion on November 19, speakers – including representatives from the Silkroad Ensemble – will examine the profound influence of immigrant voices on America’s cultural landscape. (More details to be announced.)

Yo-Yo Ma conceived Silkroad in 1998, recognizing the historical Silk Road as a model for radical cultural collaboration—for the exchange of ideas, tradition, and innovation across borders. In an innovative experiment, he brought together musicians from the lands of the Silk Road to co-create a musical language founded in difference, thus creating the foundation of Silkroad: both a touring ensemble comprised of world-class musicians from all over the globe and a social-impact organization working to make a positive impact across borders through the arts. Today, under the leadership of Artistic Director Rhiannon Giddens, Silkroad leads social impact initiatives and educational programming alongside the creation of new music by the Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble. For more information, please visit

Rhiannon Giddens has made a singular, iconic career out of stretching her brand of folk music, with its miles-deep historical roots and contemporary sensibilities, into just about every field imaginable. A two-time GRAMMY Award-winning singer and instrumentalist, MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient, and composer of opera, ballet, and film, Giddens has centered her work around the mission of lifting up people whose contributions to American musical history have previously been overlooked or erased, and advocating for a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins through art.

As Pitchfork once said, “few artists are so fearless and so ravenous in their exploration”—a journey that has led to NPR naming her one of its 25 Most Influential Women Musicians of the 21st Century and to American Songwriter calling her “one of the most important musical minds currently walking the planet.”

Her third solo studio album, You’re The One, released August 18 on Nonesuch Records.

November 19, 2024

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