Campus News

Tickets Available Now for Gaines Center's Bale Boone Symposium With Rhiannon Giddens

photo of Rhiannon Giddens with banjo
2021 Bale Boone Symposium poster with Rhiannon Giddens holding banjo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 15, 2021) The Gaines Center for the Humanities at the University of Kentucky will welcome Grammy and MacArthur “Genius Grant” award winner Rhiannon Giddens as the featured speaker/performer of the 2021 Bale Boone Symposium. Tickets for this free public event, scheduled for Nov. 11, are available now.

A critically acclaimed musician, Rhiannon Giddens, is the co-founder of the Grammy award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. As a soloist and collaborator, she has also been nominated for six additional Grammys. Her recent album, “They’re Calling Me Home," was recorded with multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi in Ireland during the recent COVID-19 lockdown. The new album explores “the longing for the comfort of home as well as the metaphorical 'call home' of death” that has become a reality for way too many during the pandemic.

Much of Giddens’ work lifts up people whose contributions to American musical history have been erased, giving a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins. Featured in Ken Burns’ "Country Music" series, the artist shared details on the African American origins of country music. Giddens 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,” which tells stories of historic Black womanhood and survival.

The artistic director of Silkroad, Giddens is developing several new programs for the organization, including one inspired by the history of the American transcontinental railroad and the cultures and music of its builders. She recently wrote the music for an original ballet, “Lucy Negro Redux,” for Nashville Ballet, and the libretto and music for an original opera, “Omar,” based on the autobiography of the enslaved man Omar Ibn Said for the Spoleto USA Festival, scheduled to premiere in 2022.

The 2021 Bale Boone Symposium featuring Giddens will be part lecture/part performance, with several musical demonstrations to showcase the historical roots of folk instruments. The event will begin 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, in the Haggin Auditorium of Transylvania University’s Mitchell Fine Arts Center. Registration for the symposium with Giddens can be found online here.

All attendees of the 2021 Bale Boone Symposium will need to show their COVID-19 vaccination card or a negative PCR COVID test within the last 72 hours in order to enter Haggin Auditorium. This will be checked against ID upon entry. All attendees must wear masks for the duration of the event.

For more information on the Rhiannon Giddens event, contact Gaines Center Associate Director Chelsea Brislin at

Through the Bale Boone Symposium, the Gaines Center sponsors an array of public humanities and arts events to promote dialogue, intellectual exploration and partnerships among the campus, Bluegrass and Commonwealth communities. Supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the symposium demonstrates the commitment of Joy Bale Boone and George Street Boone to the betterment of the humanities.

Founded in 1984 by a generous gift from John and Joan Gaines, the Gaines Center for the Humanities functions as a laboratory for imaginative and innovative education on the University of Kentucky's campus. Devoted to cultivating an appreciation of the humanities in its students and faculty, the center embraces varied paths of knowledge and particularly strives to integrate creative work with traditional academic learning.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.