IU honors musician Crystal Taliefero-Pratt with Herman Hudson Alumni Award
Crystal L. Taliefero-Pratt, an Indiana University and Soul Revue alumna who has performed to praise from audiences and critics the world over, returned to Bloomington on Tuesday (April 19) to receive the IU African American Arts Institute's Herman C. Hudson Alumni Award.
The Herman C. Hudson Alumni Award was established in 2005 as part of the anniversary celebration commemorating 30 years of the African American Arts Institute. The annual award recognizes former student ensemble and staff members who have made outstanding contributions in the arts after graduating from IU.
Taliefero-Pratt has since enjoyed extensive success as a artist touring with performers such as John Mellencamp, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks, Joe Cocker, Elton John and many other widely successful artists and groups.
"Crystal Taliefero is without a doubt the most talented multi-instrumentalist and vocal arranger I have ever worked with. I have been honored to have her as a member of my recording and touring group for over 25 years now," Joel said in a statement offering his congratulations.
"She has been responsible for many of the more creative aspects of hit recording arrangements and performances since we began working together. There are even some songs that would not have been written without her inspiration. I couldn't even imagine touring or doing any kind of popular musical project without her," he added. "Congratulations, Crystal, you're the greatest!"
In many ways, Taliefero-Pratt is an embodiment of the late Herman C. Hudson's vision for the AAAI. Hudson, founder of the Office of Afro-American Affairs and the Minority Achievers Program at IU Bloomington, believed the institute should strive for the highest levels of excellence in performance. Throughout its history, the institute has nurtured and developed the talents of students of diverse backgrounds who come to IU with varying artistic interests and experience.
She received the award at a celebration banquet on April 19 in the Grand Hall of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center on the IU Bloomington campus. A large plaque engraved with her name will be mounted on a wall in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.
Taliefero-Pratt is one of many talented members of the institute who have gone on to successful careers in the arts. She has been performing traditional rhythm and blues since the age of 11, and the time she spent within the institute allowed her to continue to learn and develop her talents.
A highly regarded vocalist and instrumentalist, she also is admired for her producing, arranging and writing skills. Taliefero-Pratt plays the saxophone, guitar, harmonica, percussion instruments, bass and keyboards during her performances when she is not in front of a microphone.
As part of its mission, the African American Arts Institute and its ensembles expose IU students to a wide range of musical styles, while giving them tools to be successful in the world of professional performance and beyond.
James Mumford, emeritus director of the IU African American Choral Ensemble, fondly remembers working with Taliefero-Pratt when he directed the IU Soul Revue in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
"She is one of the most outstanding female musicians I've ever taught," Mumford said. "She's extraordinarily talented -- she's a composer, a performer on multiple instruments and an overall fantastic musician who's had an exciting career with the top names . . . But she's also just a wonderful person."
Before coming to Bloomington, Taliefero-Pratt already was an accomplished musician, but her talents as a vocalist weren't evident until she started working with Mumford and others as an IU student.
"When she first starting working with me, she had the kind of talent that no teacher can take a whole lot of credit for," Mumford said. "She came to me with a mound of talent already and I was able to shape it and give her the confidence as a solo singer."
"When I hear the name Crystal Taliefero, the words versatility, excellence and energy come to mind," said Charles Sykes, AAAI's executive director and the horn coach for the Soul Revue when Crystal was a student. "Few people can switch from instrument to voice to instrument like Crystal, and on each deliver a performance that is equally powerful. I'm not surprised that she has had such a successful career."
In addition to her performance and production credits, Taliefero-Pratt also has used her talents and success for service and co-created a series of children's books as well as an actively supported VH-1's "Save The Music" campaign.
About her live shows, Rhythm Magazine wrote, "Crystal Taliefero is a force to be reckoned with." The Palm Beach Post has described her as "A sleek, sexy bundle of energy . . . Her voice is electrifying! Her percussion hits ignite . . . Dynamic, effervescent and brimming with soul."
She currently is in the midst of a tour with Billy Joel and recently toured with Michael McDonald, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. She also arranges and records live vocal and percussion arrangements via the Internet for professional recording sessions from her studio, while raising her daughter.
This story was originally published April 18, 2011.
Read an article about Crystal Taliefero in the Indiana Daily Student.
--George Vlahakis and Sam Davis