CRESTVIEW — A Crestview vocalist has made strides in pursuing his musical passion and setting a positive example. 

University of West Florida student Donovan Black, a senior majoring in vocal performance, recently won the 2017 Grady-Rayam Prize in Vocal Performance and the UWF Arts Advocacy Award.

Black competed in the Grady-Rayam competition in February in Lakeland. It challenges vocalists to learn and perform arranged spirituals before a jury panel. He performed "I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray," an original composition by Dr. Robert Williams, as well as "Were You There?" by Moses Hogan.

Black was named the upper division's male winner, receiving a cash award from the Negro Spiritual Scholarship Foundation and recital performance opportunities. His debut performance took place in March at the Project Grady-Rayam 2017 World Premiere Gala in Orlando.

"It means a lot to be the first Grady-Rayam Prize winner from UWF," said Black, who competed against performers from other Florida colleges. "As the male winner in the upper division, I will serve as an ambassador for the Negro spiritual, also known as the American spiritual, and will perform throughout the United States over the next year."

Faculty in the UWF College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities selected Black as the 2017 recipient of the Student Arts Advocacy Award at UWF, which recognizes students who bring attention to the role of arts in Florida's quality of life. He formally received the award March 22 at a presentation by the Florida Higher Education Arts Network during Arts Advocacy Day at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee.

"Donovan Black is an exemplary student," said Dr. Sheila Dunn, chair of the UWF Department of Music. "He is a powerful performer with tremendous vocal talent and a gift for arts advocacy. He is very deserving of these recent honors."

As a participant in Arts Advocacy Day, Black joined students, educators and other stakeholders throughout the state in discussing the value of the arts with state leaders. He visited the office of Rep. Frank White, R-Pensacola, where he sang "Summertime." He also met Lois Benson, chair of the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

In addition to his coursework, Black volunteers at Dixon School of the Arts in Pensacola, where he teaches voice and music theory as part of a Saturday program for students.