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Life after Desk: Catching up with 2016 Tiny Desk Contest winner Gaelynn Lea

The eight winners of the Tiny Desk Contest — our annual search for a great unsigned artist to play a Tiny Desk concert — have all gone on to do great things, from performing on world tours to winning Grammy Awards. Today, we're taking a moment to highlight one of these artists: the beloved Gaelynn Lea, winner of our 2016 Contest. The Duluth, Minn., native won with a video of her song "Someday We'll Linger In The Sun," which she recorded on her phone in the space where she taught fiddle lessons. Gaelynn Lea makes music unlike anyone else. Her beautiful folk melodies are often rooted in the sounds of Irish fiddle tunes. She also has brittle bone disease, which makes it necessary for her to play her instrument in an inventive and unique style.

"The Contest definitely changed my life," Lea told NPR Music last year. Since winning, she's toured the world and co-founded a coalition that amplifies disability culture in the music industry. She's also writing a book. Most recently, she wrote music for the Broadway adaptation of Macbeth – the director of the play first discovered her music from her Tiny Desk concert – which she hopes will help bring disability culture into the mainstream. "Celebrating disability, rather than just accommodating it, is the next step in the journey to really valuing diversity," she says.

NPR's Tiny Desk video team recently met with our 2016 Contest winner during production on Macbeth to hear about her journey from the Tiny Desk to Broadway. We're proud to share that video here today.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.