Alumnae Tuttle and Hull Win Top Bluegrass Honors

By 
Mike Keefe-Feldman
October 5, 2017
Molly Tuttle '14; photo by Kaitlyn Raitz
Sierra Hull
Molly Tuttle '14 became the first female guitarist to win Best Guitarist at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards.
Sierra Hull B.M. '11 took home the Best Mandolinist award at the IBMAs for the second year in a row.
Image by Kaitlyn Raitz
Image courtesy of the artist

Molly Tuttle '14 and Sierra Hull B.M. ’11 received 2017 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards (IBMA) for Best Guitarist and Best Mandolinist, respectively, on September 28. Tuttle became the first woman to win the guitar award since the IBMAs began in 1990. Hull won the mandolin honors for the second year in a row (last year, she was also the first female recipient in that category). The wins for the two Berklee alumnae firmly establish them as rising stars in the bluegrass world, placing them among the ranks of previous winners who have gone on to shape the sound of contemporary bluegrass, such as Doc Watson, Sam Bush, Tony Rice, Chris Thile, and Ronnie McCoury.

In addition to her mandolin win, Hull also appeared on the IBMA winner for Recorded Event of the Year, Bobby Osborne’s “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You.” Hull’s most recent album, Weighted Mind, produced by 16-Grammy-winning banjoist Béla Fleck (a longtime collaborator of Berklee Visiting Scholar Victor Wooten), was a critical favorite and garnered her a 2017 Grammy nomination—her first—in the Best Folk Album category. Fleck says the album demonstrates how “her vocals and songwriting have matured to the level of her virtuosity” on mandolin.

Hull, who came to Berklee on a Presidential Scholarship, has taken time to give back to the Berklee community on the college's annual industry trip to Nashville, sharing encouragement and advice with students considering building their career in the Nashville scene.

Watch a music video for “Black River” by Sierra Hull:

This year, Tuttle released her debut EP, Rise, which kicked off at No. 2 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Albums Chart. She has performed on A Prairie Home Companion and at several folk festivals, most recently AmericanaFest in Nashville, where she performed alongside artists such as the Lumineers, Lori McKenna (the back-to-back Grammy-winner for Best Country Song who recently shared songwriting tips with Berklee students), and the Blind Boys of Alabama. American Songwriter has compared “the gentle authority” of her voice to that of yet another Berklee alumna, Gillian Welch ’92, while adding that she “plays astoundingly fleet flat-picking guitar like Chet Atkins on superdrive.”

Listen to a podcast featuring “Save This Heart” by Molly Tuttle:

The International Bluegrass Music Association is a trade association dedicated to connecting and educating bluegrass professionals, building the bluegrass community, and fostering greater appreciation of bluegrass music. The awards for Tuttle and Hull, in addition to other recipients, were announced at a ceremony hosted by Fleck and Abigail Washburn at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Watch a music video for “Good Enough” by Molly Tuttle: