Skip to main content
Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful
This program is over. Hope you didn't miss it!
Browse other programs we offer.

Ben Folds: An Unconventional Icon

Evening Program with Book Signing

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1L0287
Select Your Tickets

Ben Folds (Photo: Joe Vaughn)


Win a Meet & Greet with Ben Folds and a Signed Copy of His New Memoir

Win two tickets to the Ben Folds: An Unconventional Icon program on Tuesday, Dec. 3, a Meet & Greet with Ben Folds following the program for you and one guest, and a signed copy of Ben Folds’ new memoir A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons.

After we post about the contest on our Instagram account @SmithsonianAssociates, follow us and mention a friend you’d like to take with you to the Smithsonian Associates Dec. 3 event in the comments section to be entered.

For complete contest rules, click here.


Singer-songwriter Ben Folds is genre-defying icon. The former frontman of Ben Folds Five has worked with artists as diverse as Sara Bareilles, Regina Spektor, and William Shatner; was a judge for five seasons on NBC’s “The Sing-Off”; composed a piano concerto that topped the Billboard charts; and is the first-ever artistic advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra.

He’s also an outspoken champion for arts education and music therapy, and serves as chair of ArtsVote 2020, which focuses on holding presidential candidates accountable on arts issues.

But Folds would also be the first to admit he’s an unconventional icon, crafting a wide-ranging career path that’s sometimes been as unexpected as it has been successful. And that path has not always been an easy one: Folds navigated a variety of painful professional and personal setbacks as he found his voice as an artist.

In his first book, a memoir titled A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons, Folds opens up about what it took to move from a working-class childhood in North Carolina to stardom. Join him for a conversation with Stephen Thompson, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, in which he talks about that process; how his personal life intersects with his songwriting; why he insists that the ups and downs are essential for any artist; and how paying his dues (his polka career never quite took off) and never losing sight of his dream of a creative life helped shape him into the musician he wanted to be.

Folds also offers a few songs during this informal and intimate evening. Copies of A Dream About Lightning Bugs (Ballantine Books) are available for purchase and signing.

Smithsonian Year of Music

National Museum of the American Indian
Rasmuson Theater
4th St & Independence Ave SW
Metro: L'Enfant Plaza