Vienna Carroll is a singer, playwright, actor, historian and herbalist.
Vienna 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. At 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.
Harlem Field Recordings
Vienna just released her latest CD “Harlem Field Recordings” which grew out of her project “Folk First: Black Roots Music” celebrating early Black music and its influence on the music of today. Vienna draws unexpected folkloric connections and notes specific historical moments in African American history. Produced by Keith Johnston. Featuring Vienna on vocals; Stanley Banks (George Benson) bass; Newman Taylor Baker/Washboard XT (Billy Bang) washboard; Keith Johnston (Lisa Lisa) guitar; and other guest artists.
“Carroll’s new album includes both politically-charged reinventions of classic blues and gospel themes as well as more traditional numbers and originals which sound like 19th century standards. It’s classic music as you’ve probably never heard it before” – delarue— New York Music Daily
SHALLOW BROWN: Thessalonia And The Free Sailor
Vienna’s new play features the sea shanty Shallow Brown, a song by and about a Jamaican slave sold off to a Yankee ship owner, who is jumping ship to find a better life. The play shares the under-told story of the critical impact of Black sailors on the antebellum maritime economy and on the lives of the Black community and it highlights their activities in the Underground Railroad. Vienna presented an excerpt (and research journey) at the 39th Mystic Sea Music Festival Symposium in 2018 and debuted a full reading at the Langston Hughes House in Harlem in the Fall. She kicked off the first Langston Hughes playwright showcase to a packed house on May 3, 2019. Vienna was scheduled to perform at the Cold Springs Whaling Museum and at the 41st Mystic Sea Music Festival this year in 2020.
Artist in Residence – The Civil War Series
Vienna provided local context to Red Grooms’ Hudson River Museum Civil War exhibits by unearthing, researching and sharing a rare glimpse into the history of a Westchester African American community called the Hills, and its contribution to the Civil War effort. She and her art partner, Keith Johnston, created and performed original content at monthly family-friendly gallery shows for the 9-month tenure of the exhibit as well as programming for teachers, docents, seniors and school children. The Greater Hudson Heritage Network recently gave the Hudson River Museum the Award for Excellence in Civil War Focused Public Programs…we are so proud!
Folk First: Black Roots Music
“Folk First” celebrates traditional Black music and first debuted at the Harlem Arts Festival in Marcus Garvey Park. Subsequent performances include the American Folk Art Museum and at NYC’s Living Room, the Kickin’ Country Music Festival, the Newark Museum, The Cooperage, RiverCulture, librarie, schools and other venues. Vienna has worked with fiddle player Henrique Prince, founder of the Ebony Hillbillies, one of the last Black string bands in the US; Charles Burnham; Hilliard Greene; Nioka Workman; Leon Thomas and Olu Dara.
Singin Wid A Sword In Ma Han
Vienna wrote and starred in Singin Wid A Sword In Ma Han, a musical docudrama about a family escaping slavery, directed by Keith Johnston, 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.
Juneteenth Underground Railroad Festival
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.
Vienna Carroll Jazz delivers an eclectic mix of jazz standards, blues, and jazzy versions of country & western, pop and other favorite songs. She is a regular at public venues throughout NYC and for private events, accompanied by Michael Howell (Dizzy Gillespie) or Bruce Edwards (Sun Ra) on guitar.
Vienna received accolades for her performance in the critically acclaimed “3/Fifths.” She has appeared in theater, the video series “Black Folk Don’t,” and in television, commercials and film.
Vienna’s Herbal Compounds produces a boutique line of organic and all-natural body care products. Vienna has led “Let’s Make Dandelion Wine” and other herbal walks, and taught aromatherapy and herbal classes at the NY Open Center and throughout NYC and the tri-state area.
Garner-Glaser Foundation grant
2019 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Music/Sound
Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone grant
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council grant (3)
GHHN Award for Excellence in Civil War Focused Public Programs as Artist in Residence, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers
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
Puffin Foundation grants (2)
American Folk Art Museum
Roots & Ruckus
Langston Hughes House
Big Eyed Blues Festival
39th Mystic Sea Music Festival
Turners Falls RiverCulture
The Cooperage Project
Kickin Country Music Festival
The Living Room
Mt Vernon Public Library
West Harlem Libraries
The Players Theater
Oheb Shalom Congregation
Flatbush-Tompkins Congregational Church
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Hudson River Museum
Dance New Amsterdam
Brooklyn Ethical Society
Medgar Evers Theater, CUNY
Goodridge Freedom House and Underground Railroad Museum
1st NYC Underground Railroad Festival