Washington, D.C. native Phil Wiggins is a Takoma Park, Maryland, resident, blues musician, teacher and artistic director, a two time winner of the prestigious WC Handy Blues Foundation awards, is only the third harmonica player to receive the lifetime honor of an NEA National Heritage Fellowship. Today he is the only living player of the instrument to hold the prestigious honor of being a “Master of Traditional Arts.” Often referred to by its unofficial designation as “Living Cultural Treasure” award, the fellowship honors and preserves the diverse cultural heritage in the United States. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) annually awards one-time-only NEA National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists, to recognize lifetime achievement, artistic excellence, and contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage.
Phil Wiggins is a versatile traditional harmonica player, continuing the Piedmont blues tradition, a gentle and melodic blues style of the mid-Atlantic region. He plays the diatonic ten-hole harmonica in the country blues style, cupping both hands around the instrument and playing acoustically. His sound is not shaped by the gear, the microphone or amplifier when performing on stage, instead by his complex syncopated patterns, breath-control and rhythm, stylistic virtuosity and fiery solo runs.