Local blues harmonica musician wins prestigious award

A blues musician with local roots has received a prestigious honor from the National Endowment for the Arts.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - A blues musician with local roots has received a prestigious honor from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The NEA awarded Phil Wiggins with its National Heritage Fellowship. According to the NEA, the honor recognizes recipients’ artistic excellence and respective contributions to the nation's traditional arts heritage.

B.B. King, Mavis Staples and John Lee Hooker are just a few of the musicians who have received the honor over the years.

Wiggins specializes in blues harmonica. He was born in Washington, D.C. and currently lives in Takoma Park, Maryland. He said he was honored to receive the fellowship.

"To be accepted as a peer of these people that you mentioned,” he said. “It feels like this amazing validation."

For more than three decades, Wiggins partnered with blues great John Cephas, another NEA fellowship winner, to play music in concert halls all across the world. He has performed in Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House and the White house.

He told WUSA9, as a kid, he would have never imagined the amount of success he would achieve later in life.

"I had no idea that this little three inches of metal and wood would take me all over the world,” he said.

Wiggins said there were a number of different influences that ultimately drew him to blues music. He said he had several mentors growing up, including Cephas and musician John Jackson, who helped him craft his skills. Wiggins also said he came to love blues music while spending time in his parents’ hometown of Titusville, Alabama.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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