Inaugurated in 2005 as part of the 2004-2005 anniversary celebration, the Herman C. Hudson Alumni Award was developed to annually recognize former student ensemble and staff members who, after leaving IU, have made outstanding contributions in the arts. Recipients of this award serve as models of high achievement for present and future AAAI personnel.
Composer, performer, and educator Sonia Ivette Morales-Matos was born in Puerto Rico, and belongs to a family of distinguished musicians. She holds a bachelor’s degree in composition, both Western classical and jazz, from Berklee College of Music, and a Master of Music in Composition and Jazz Studies from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. While at IU she studied with distinguished professors David Baker, Juan Orrego-Salas, and Claude Baker. In 1990 she joined the African American Arts Institute as an associate instructor, accompanist and instrumental coach for the African American Choral Ensemble under Dr. James E. Mumford, and remained with the ensemble for two years.
Since graduating from IU Sonia has built an impressive career as a teacher and composer. Her compositions explore a wide variety of styles and genres, including chamber music, the concerto, choral music, Latin Jazz, and Tropical music. Artists and orchestras in the United States and abroad, including the Dayton Philharmonic, the Clermont Philharmonic, the Central Ohio Symphony, the Puerto Rico Symphony, and the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de la República Dominicana, have performed her compositions. She has received commissions for various ensembles and for festivals, such as Festival Casals of Puerto Rico, the International Clarinet Fest, and the International Choral Festival of Havana, among others. Her current project is a commission for the Museo de la Música de Puerto Rico in Guaynabo City, Puerto Rico. Sonia also has been the pianist and arranger for Son del Caribe Salsa Band in Cincinnati since 2004 and continues pursuing her career as a composer, performer, and educator in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Nick Kenkel realized his love for the stage performing as a Michael Jackson impersonator during his childhood, growing up on a horse farm in South Bend, Indiana. Although having come to Indiana University as an Accounting major, during his years at IU Nick discovered the African American Dance Company, and found an outlet for his love of dance. Nick was a member of AADC from 1994 to 1996. Nick began to seriously study dance on the side while working as a C.P.A. in Chicago. After moving to New York, the allure of show business (and a mammoth corporate accounting scandal) pushed him into pursuing dance fulltime. Nick attributes his love for choreography and performing to the pop music pioneers of the 80’s who revolutionized the music video as an art form. The NY stage has subsequently provided his biggest source of inspiration for story telling through the vehicle of dance. Nick has performed on Broadway in The Wedding Singer, Legally Blonde, Catch Me If You Can, and Evita starring Ricky Martin. He has danced for recording artists such as Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Missy Elliott, Gwen Stefani, Jamie Foxx, Mariah Carey, Anastasia, and Debbie Gibson. Nick was the Associate Director and Co-Choreographer for PEEPSHOW in Las Vegas at the Planet Hollywood Casino and Resort starring Mel B., Holly Madison and CoCo Austin. Nick was the Assistant Choreographer on Legally Blonde and Associate Choreographer on Catch Me If You Can. Nick has choreographed for television commercials/ promos, recording artists, and musical/ stage shows but is most proud to serve as a choreographer and now director for Broadway Bares, an annual concert that raises over a million dollars each year for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Dr. Sheila A. Ward is presently a tenured Professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Exercise Science at Norfolk State University. She holds a B.S. in Physical Education with an emphasis in Dance from Indiana University and an M.Ed. and Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from Temple University. Dr. Ward also earned a Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology from Eastern Virginia Medical School/Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA. Dr. Ward is the Executive Director of and professional dancer with Eleone Dance Theatre, Philadelphia, PA. She is the former Associate Instructor and Acting Director of the Afro-American Dance Company, Indiana University. Eleone Dance Theatre is dedicated to the preservation and creation of historical and contemporary Theatre dance which celebrates intergenerational and uni- and multicultural themes that both educate and entertain; and, to cultivating future audiences and artists among the underserved by providing affordable dance training, performances and experiences to the community. Dr. Ward performed and trained with The Philadelphia Company (Phildanco) and Phildanco II, and she is a Certification Candidate for the Umfundalai African Dance Technique and the Katherine Dunham Technique. Integration of her degrees in exercise physiology, epidemiology/public health, and dance have served as the foundation to promote, ’Health Empowerment through Cultural Awareness.’
James, a native of Indianapolis, Indiana has worked professionally in the entertainment industry for over 18 years and has been regarded by his peers as being one of the most talented professionals in the business. He attended Indiana University where he was a member of the legendary IU Soul Revue under the mentorship of Dr. James E. Mumford of the African American Arts Institute. During his tenure at Indiana University James honed the skills that would prepare him to travel the world and perform with some of the music industry’s biggest and brightest stars. He is the proud recipient of the 2013 Herman C. Hudson Alumni Award, a prestigious honor given by Indiana University’s African American Arts Institute in recognition of former members who have made outstanding contributions in the arts.
Kevon Edmonds is a proud carrier of the R&B torch. From his debut with After 7 in 1989 to his latest self entitled solo project "Kevon Edmonds: Who Knew" (released in October, 2009), he’s kept the flame alive. Who Knew marks another milestone for the singer, songwriter and producer. This latest project, distributed by EMI Distribution, finds him with his new label Make Entertainment, new music and a continued positive outlook on life and love. "It just felt like the right time to make a record," he says. Kevon created Who Knew to bridge the gap between classic R&B and today’s version of the genre. "R&B brings love back into music as a topic of discussion that comes with respect and appreciation," he says.
Crystal L. Taliefero-Pratt is a revered vocalist and instrumentalist. She is a native of Gary, Indiana. She first began performing R&B at a local nightclub at the age of 11. She attended Indiana University where she became a member of the IU Soul Revue and studied under the tutelage of Dr. James Mumford. Crystal earned her big break in 1986 while performing in a local band called Kilo. Her skills impressed John Mellencamp so much that he invited her join his own band on tour. Through her hard work she then received an invitation to join the Billy Joel Band in 1989. Since then Mrs. Taliefero-Pratt has enjoyed extensive success as a performer touring with the likes of John Mellencamp, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn, and a host of other widely successful artists and groups.
She is not only a talented musician, but also prolific writer and a talented producer/arranger with credits on several multi-platinum albums, most notably her collaboration on the acclaimed "River of Dreams" album with Billy Joel in the mid-1990's. She also uses her talents and success for service as the co-creator of a series of children’s books as well as actively supporting VH-1’s “Save The Music” campaign.
Dr. Cheryl Keyes is a professor, scholar, pianist/flutist/vocalist, and a songwriter-composer. She completed her undergraduate work at Xavier University in Louisiana where she contributed to two musical albums by artists Eddie Bo and Alvin Batiste. She continued her education at Indiana University where she studied music education and earned a PhD in Ethnomusicology. At the beginning of 2008, Dr. Keyes officially launched Keycan Records and later that fall she released her debut CD, Let Me Take You There. Cheryl Keyes is the author of Rap Music and Street Consciousness, which received a CHOICE award for outstanding academic books in 2004. Professor Keyes, who has a specialty in the study of African American music, gender and popular music studies, is also a professor in the Department of Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Justin Johnston is a native of Gary, IN and made his Broadway debut in Rent in 2002. He began his undergraduate studies at Indiana University where he majored in telecommunications and minored in music. Justin did regional theatre work before he made his transition into the professional scene. He started by auditioning for representatives of the Benard-Tesley Casting Agency at an open casting call at Indiana University. He impressed them so much that he earned several callbacks, which eventually led him to land the role of Angel Shunard in the Broadway production of Rent.
Gabriel Page was a highly successful dancer in both music and film, and an alumnus of the African American Dance Company. He was a longtime backup dancer for Britney Spears appearing in several of her world tours as well as in her music videos. His career highlights include appearances in Dreamgirls (2006), Starksy & Hutch (2004), Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003), and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999).
Isaiah Sanders is a celebrated musician and keyboardist. Mr. Sanders was born and raised in Jackson, MS. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and anthropology from Knox College. After two years working at a television station in Jackson, he decided to pursue his musical passion and enrolled at Indiana University where he studied piano, jazz, and ethnomusicology. Isaiah began his professional career as keyboardist on two tours with R&B singing group, The Emotions. He then toured and recorded with several other artists, including extensive work with Stevie Wonder for over 16 years. He performed with pop legend Michael Jackson, playing keyboards for him on tour for 7 years. He has performed on concerts and shows with Bob Dylan, Carlos Santana, Al Green, Brian McKnight, and many others. He is based in Los Angeles, where he also composes and produces music for television and film, manages his recording studio, and works with various music artists.
Janet Williams is an American soprano, voice teacher, performance coach, and author. She has won international critical acclaim for performances in leading roles at opera houses and concert halls around the world as well as for recordings, film, and television. Janet earned her Bachelor degrees in both Music Education and Vocal Performance from Michigan State University and a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from Indiana University, where she was an Assistant Instructor under Professor Camilla Williams. In 2006 she founded Performance Enhancement by Design, whose mission is to empower young singers to reach their full performance potential. Her book, Nail Your Next Audition, The Ultimate 30 — Day Guide for Singers, has been hailed as a blueprint for successful auditioning.
Angela Brown is an internationally acclaimed American soprano. She completed her undergraduate degree in music at Oakwood University and then pursued additional studies under the tutelage of Virginia Zeani at the Jacobs School of Music, here at Indiana University. Her professional career was accelerated by winning the National Council Auditions of New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Since then, she has continued to win awards and perform around the world at the Metropolitan Opera, Cape Town Opera of South Africa, Vienna State Opera, National Opera of Paris, Opera and other prestigious venues. Ms. Brown is noted for her performance piece, Opera…from A Sistah’s Point of View in which she aims to broaden the reach of opera to both young and diverse minority audiences alike.