Rhonda Rucker’s Civil War-era novel, Swing Low, Sweet Harriet, was a Crystal Kite Award finalist. Her more recent books, Make a Change and Welcome to Bombingham, take place during the civil rights movement, one of her favorite time periods because of its powerful soundtrack of spirited songs.
After meeting and marrying James “Sparky” Rucker, Rhonda left medicine to effect change with music. She is a multi-instrumentalist, playing blues-style harmonica, banjo, piano, guitar, and rhythmic bones. While much of the duo’s repertoire is traditional American folk, Rhonda also writes originals with powerful melodies rooted in the folk and gospel genres, and these songs often address difficult topics like climate change. The two musicians have been ecological troubadours, performing at the Clearwater Festival in New York as well as Earth Day celebrations, national parks, and environmental education centers across the country.
Over forty years of performing, Sparky and Rhonda have performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as NPR's On Point, Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, and Morning Edition. Their recording, Treasures & Tears, was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award, and their music is also included on the Grammy-nominated anthology, Singing Through the Hard Times.
The Ruckers have been featured tellers at the International Storytelling Center and Festival. Sparky and Rhonda each tell solo stories, but they also tell stories together in tandem, adding life and humor to the characters and tricksters in their Brer Rabbit tales, Jack tales, High John the Conqueror stories, preacher tales, and family stories. Together, they have won awards including the Underground Railroad Free Press Award, the Spirit of Freedom Commemorative Medal of Honor(African American Civil War Memorial), the MLK Art Award from the Dr. Martin Luther King Commemorative Commission, the Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong Legacy Award.
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