Will Ridenour's creative journey has spanned the globe, yet he's clung tight to the connections and intentions at the heart and start of it all.
Awed as a youth by the power of music to elicit and convey emotions, he set about exploring every aspect he could discover. From church youth group music to touring punk bands, in solo and group settings, he saw how sound can change the world by changing how we feel. With entertainment on the surface and illumination within, these vibrations link us all together and make sense of the inexplicable. He didn't know it yet, but Will was discovering music as medicine.
As if fated, on a sunny stroll across campus one day, he chanced upon a West African dance performance that would alter the course of his life. Inspired by the pulse and passion of the cradle of humanity, he began studying the West African djembe. As his historical knowledge and technical skills grew, his musical performances and work as an educator increasingly sought to dissolve the borders between cultures and blend them in celebration and reverence.
A serendipitous discovery in a dark warehouse of African art imports led him to discover the kora, an enchanting bridge-harp from West Africa. With a direct connection to the heart, the kora has a serene sound on the surface, while holding a deep cultural significance underneath.
As Will realized the kora's effect on himself, and saw those around him transformed by its beauty and power, the stage was set for his innermost creativity to come to fruition. He dropped everything to develop his own voice and style through four study trips with master teachers in Mali and Senegal. A fusion of compositional strength and instrumental prowess, Will’s kora playing ushers us through an expanse awash with fresh original melodies and poetic reimaginings of time-honored classics.
As a multi-instrumentalist, Will has collaborated on 14 albums and released 1 album of solo, instrumental kora music. He has played in 40 states and 28 countries, has scored and performed in 18 theater, dance and film projects, and has been awarded 2 North Carolina Arts Council grants. He has created custom, interactive demonstrations of West African culture, accompanied dance classes and spoken word performances, and shared his wisdom and talents through private and group lessons for adults and children. He has lectured at universities, instructed at camps and K-12 school programs, and facilitated large corporate team-building and leadership training workshops.
Will's versatile musicianship currently illuminates a vast range of artistic ventures across North Carolina, including the West African dance band Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba, the visionary live theater productions of Paperhand Puppet Intervention, the genre-blending duo Grand Shores, the annual spoken-word Rumi By Candlelight performances, and many more.
Throughout them all, Will seeks transcendental moments of discovery, where the listener is compelled to stop, think, and feel. Moments that reveal the beauty of each other and our potential within, revitalizing and challenging us to awaken and become fully alive. It's the cultivation of this joy that forms the bedrock of his life's work.
If music is medicine, may we all be healed.
- Paul Kerr
What They're Saying
Will's primary kora teachers are Dialy Mady Cissoko (Mali), Jely Fily Sacko (Mali), Madya Diebate (Senegal), and Youssoupha Cissokho (Senegal). Along with the Kora, he has studied West-African and Afro-Cuban percussion with accomplished teachers such as Madou Dembele (Ivory Coast), Mohammed Da Costa (Guinea), Michael Spiro (USA / Cuba), Thione Diop (Senegal) and Haruna Sidibe (Mali).
Will holds a B.A. in Anthropology from UNC-Chapel Hill and has been the recipient of two NC Arts Council grants for musical projects centering around the kora. He currently performs with a variety of groups including Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba, Paperhand Puppet Intervention, Wind & Stars, Rumi By Candlelight, and various other projects in central North Carolina.
Will Ridenour Music
Products I Endorse Gloriously
Kora Pickups: Open To Source Sensors
Djembe Products: Baile's African Drum Works, Goatskins.com, Drumskull Drums.