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The Charlie Nelms Distinguished Alumni Award

Crystal was awarded The Charlie Nelms Distinguished Alumni Award at Indiana University Bloomington on 10/16/21.

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Crystal Taliefero, (born 1963 in Bourne, Massachusetts) is a prolific multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. Since 1989 she has been touring and recording band member with Billy Joel.


At 11 years old, Taliefero started performing at local rhythm and blues clubs in Northwest Indiana and metropolitan Chicago with the singing group, Black Mist (later renamed Magic Mist). Taliefero attended William A. Wirt High School in Gary, IN, where she was a top athlete and graduated in 1981. She went on to study music at Indiana University. Taliefero is member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.


John Mellencamp discovered Taliefero performing locally and convinced her to join his touring band. Taliefero was invited to join the Billy Joel in 1989 and join the Storm Front tour.


Crystal has been with the Billy Joel ever since. Over the years, Taliefero's music journey has included a wide range of artists such as Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Joe Cocker, Tina Arena, Bob Seger, Brooks & Dunn, Richie Sambora, Elton John, Enrique Iglesias, Natalie Merchant, Meat Loaf, Michael McDonald, Bruce Springsteen, The Northern Pikes, Julian Lennon, The Bee Gees, Dolly Parton's "Two Doors Down", Steven Van Zandt, Mick Jones of Foreigner (credited on his solo album released in 1989) and Buddy Guy.

In its 2008 article "The 125-Plus People, Places and Things Ruling the Rock & Roll Universe," Rolling Stone magazine declared Taliefero the "Best Secret Weapon." Instruments in Taliefero's percussion kit include the bongo, cabasa, chimes, conga, cowbell, güiro, hand percussion, jam block, shaker, tambourine, timbales, triangle, the Djembe and wood block. In addition, Taliefero plays acoustic guitar, sax, keys and all vocals. 


"Crystal and I have worked together for many years. She brings an excitement and fire to the stage like none I've ever seen. All of the artists who have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Crystal will tell you she is a vocal and percussion goddess!!!!

Love you.


Faith Hill  

"Crystal 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."  


Billy Joel

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