Vienna sings Black Roots Music, a mixture of spirituals, work songs, and prison songs that preceded jazz, blues and gospel — and celebrates the often-overlooked contributions of women. She learned music from the Black Ladies of her youth, including her fearsome great grandmother who played guitar to country singer Minnie Pearl on Saturday night radio but only proper Pentecostal chords in church on Sunday. Vienna also sang in the choir at her family’s AME church, and attended her godmother’s Baptist church. On her Alabama grandmother’s 125 acre working farm, she listened to gospel and country on the radio and joined in the Sunday church services an hour’s drive away down a dusty road, where singing was often accompanied only by the hand clapping and shouting of its fervent members. She later formalized her study of early African American music and culture at Yale University, where she received a BA in African American Studies.
Throughout her latest dynamic musical show, “Folk First: Black Roots Music” Vienna draws unexpected folkloric connections with contemporary artists like Biggie Smalls, Pharrell Williams and the NYC subway candy men, noting specific historical moments in African American history and bringing a unique blend of emotional intensity and humor. Her audiences laugh, cheer, clap and sing along to her sparkling rhythms. “Folk First” features Vienna on vocals and a peerless old time band of guitar, fiddle, bass, and washboard.
“Folk First” was a stunning success at its Harlem Arts Festival debut and at NYC’s Living Room, the Kickin’ Country Music Festival, the Newark Museum, The Cooperage, RiverCulture and other venues including libraries and school settings. Vienna has worked with such musicians as: fiddle player Henrique Prince, founder of the Ebony Hillbillies, one of the last Black string bands in the US; internationally renowned drummer and washboardist, Newman Taylor Baker; Charles Burnham; Hilliard Greene; Nioka Workman; Leon Thomas; Olu Dara; and Keith Johnston.
Vienna wrote and starred in Singin Wid A Sword In Ma Han, a musical docudrama about a family escaping slavery, which features rare spirituals and won the International NYC Fringe Festival’s Audience Favorite Award. Singin’s other venues include the Goodrich Underground Railroad Museum, Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Newark Museum, Medgar Evers College CUNY and the West Harlem Library Series. She also produced a CD of spirituals with Newman Taylor Baker and performed selections at the Schomburg’s Emancipation Proclamation event.
Vienna conceived of and produced the First Annual NYC Underground Railroad Festival Juneteenth Celebration. With the assistance of the Brooklyn Borough President’s office, she partnered with The Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, a nationally certified Underground Railroad site; the Brooklyn Historical Society; the Weeksville Heritage Society; and the American Theatre of Harlem. The sold- out Festival was recorded and broadcast by WBGO-FM, the tri-state area’s premier jazz station.
Jazz & More
On the jazz front, Vienna Carroll Jazz delivers an eclectic mix of jazz standards, blues, and jazz versions of country & western, pop and other favorites. Vienna has performed at the New Leaf Restaurant, Tsion Cafe, clubs and restaurants throughout NYC and for private events.
As an herbalist, Vienna has led “Let’s Make Dandelion Wine” and herbal walks, and taught aromatherapy and herbal classes throughout the tri-state area. Her company, Vienna’s Herbal Compounds, produces a boutique line of organic and all-natural body care products.
Vienna’s latest CD is “Vienna Carroll Live”. She is currently curating work songs for a new piece about the slave rebellions of the early 1800′s, which includes her ongoing research on urban slavery, Black sailors and 19th century herbal healing.
Turners Falls RiverCulture
The Cooperage Project
Kickin Country Music Festival
The Living Room
New Leaf Restaurant
Indian Road Cafe
Mt Vernon Public Library
West Harlem Libraries
The Players Theater
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Hudson River Museum
Dance New Amsterdam
St. Nick’s Pub
Brooklyn Ethical Society
Medgar Evers Theater, CUNY
Goodridge Freedom House and Underground Railroad Museum
1st NYC Underground Railroad Festival
Hudson River Museum, Yonkers,NY Performance Residency
Ragdale Artist Residency, IL
Virginia Center for Creative Arts Artist Residency, VA
Djerassi Artist Residency (alt), CA
West Harlem Development Corporation
Theatermania Audience Favorite Award, NYC International Fringe Festival
Harlem Art Alliance grants (2)
The Field Artist Residency, Berkshires
Brooklyn Arts Council grant
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council grant
Puffin Foundation grants (2)