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Sudler Prize honors top students in performing, creative arts

Emory Report

Two exceptional Emory College creative scholars — music major Michael Crawford (left) and creative writing major Darby Jardeleza — are the 2017 recipients of the Louis B. Sudler Prize in the Arts. 

Two exceptional Emory College creative scholars — music major Michael Crawford and creative writing major Darby Jardeleza — are the 2017 recipients of the Louis B. Sudler Prize in the Arts.

Awarded annually to the graduating senior or seniors who have demonstrated the highest standard of proficiency in one or more of the performing or creative arts, each Sudler Prize is accompanied by a $6,000 award.

Arts faculty who have mentored the students say they are two of the most extraordinary and accomplished undergraduate students to ever study in their respective departments.

Music major Michael Crawford, from Loganville, Georgia, graduates May 8 with concentrations in violin performance and composition.

“Michael is a mature individual, highly respected by his peers and the faculty alike here at Emory for not just his intellectual and creative prowess, but for his genuine collegiality, clearly demonstrated passion and highly commendable work ethic,” says Richard Prior, conductor of the Emory University Symphony Orchestra (EUSO) and director of performance studies. “This young man lives for music and creativity.” 

Crawford’s strong work ethic coupled with his extraordinary artistic talent produced a remarkable undergraduate career. The current EUSO Concertmaster, Crawford won the EUSO Concerto and Aria Competition performing the Barber Violin Concerto in his junior year. He is a two-time recipient of the Department of Music’s competitive Blumenthal Award for undergraduate composition, an unprecedented achievement.

“I learned as much from him as he learned from me,” says John Anthony Lennon, music professor and Crawford’s instructor in Composition and Counterpoint. “What more could a teacher ask?”

This spring, for the first time in the history of the department, Crawford completed both an honors recital in composition and a full senior recital in violin performance. 

Crawford, who will begin graduate study in music composition at Temple University this fall, says that his Sudler award is a testament to the department that nominated him.

“It represents how much the music department here has supported my endeavors and invested in me to help me get to where I am now,” says Crawford. “I am very grateful and humbled to be a recipient.” 

During fiction writer Darby Jardeleza’s time at Emory, the creative writing major and Arabic minor from Bluffton, South Carolina, has demonstrated a talent for storytelling that, to her professors, goes beyond even graduate-level work. 

“Darby has a commanding voice and a fearless authorial presence,” says Joseph Skibell, Winship Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities. “She has a fierce, relentless sense of what makes for a compelling ‘telling,’ complimented by an ironic and psychologically penetrating grasp upon the worlds she describes and creates.”

Jim Grimsley, a faculty adviser to Jardeleza, echoes Skibell’s praise. “She has a talent that is truly extraordinary, an ability to write delicate, beautifully conceived short stories in a prose that is pristine, mature, and full of poetic nuance. 

“Darby writes with an intense passion for her subjects and for the form and content of each piece of prose,” says Grimsley, professor of practice in English and creative writing. “She has the kind of elegant touch with a sentence that enables her writing to shimmer with multiple meanings and levels, to accomplish an enormous density in a short space of words, and to write stories that touch the reader without effort.”

Jardaleza, who is the co-founder of the Emory Literary Club and the 2016-2017 Stipe Society of Creative Scholars Creative Writing Fellow, plans to take a gap year before applying to Master of Fine Arts programs. Looking back on her time at Emory, Jardeleza credits the Emory Creative Writing Program with much of her success.

“My Sudler nomination is just another example of the incredible help and support I've received from my professors in the Creative Writing department, specifically Jim Grimsley and Joseph Skibell,” she says. 

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