Former S.C. Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth of Mount Pleasant and Grammy Award-winning trumpet player Charlton Singleton of Charleston have received the state’s highest award for 2021 for arts achievement from the S.C. Arts Commission.

“It means a lot to me that Charlton and I are getting this honor at the same time,” Wentworth said today about the S.C. Governor’s Awards for the Arts. “We used to teach together at [Charleston County] School of the Arts. We’ve improved together. It’s been so much fun to watch his trajectory. Because he got it too, It just means so much more. It’s just sweeter.”

Singleton received the award for Artist of the Year, while Wentworth received a special award. 

Singleton, considered the modern face of jazz in the Lowcountry, received a Grammy Award in 2020 for his part in the band Ranky Tanky, a quintet that interprets the sounds of Gullah culture. The inaugural artist-in-residence at the renovated Gaillard Center in Charleston, Singleton studied organ, violin, cello and trumpet throughout childhood and adolescence and earned a music performance degree from South Carolina State University. Since then, he’s taught music at every level from elementary school through college. In addition to Ranky Tanky, he has his own touring ensemble, is artistic director and conductor of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, is organist and choir director of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Charleston.

Wentworth, who stepped down as poet laureate last year after serving since 2003, is The New York Times bestselling co-author of Out of Wonder, Poems Celebrating Poets and author of prize-winning children’s story Shackles. Her lengthy list of published titles includes several of her own poetry books, additional co-authored titles, and she is co-editor, with Kwame Dawes, of Seeking: Poetry and Prose Inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green. Following the Emanuel AME Church massacre in Charleston, she co-wrote We Are Charleston with writer Herb Frazier and historian Bernard Powers. Currently, she is teaching courses in writing, social justice and banned books at the College of Charleston.

Others honored with the Sunday announcement included : The late Furman University professor and artist Tom Flowers of Greenville (lifetime achievement, posthumous); arts manager Jennifer Clark Evins of Spartanburg (individual); Tayloe Harding of Columbia, a composer and dean of the University of South Carolina School of Music (arts in education); Colonial Life of Columbia (business); and ColaJazz Foundation of Columbia (organization).

“With the Governor’s Award, we celebrate achievement and thank these accomplished recipients for enriching life and culture here in South Carolina. Recipients always represent the best of South Carolina,” said S.C. Arts Commission Chairwoman Dee Crawford in a press release. “They are talented, successful, and dedicated. They exemplify giving of themselves to ensure everyone who wants to can benefit from access to the arts.” 

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