TSU Grammy-Award winning Aristocrat of Bands set to perform at the CMA Fest, White House

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s Aristocrat of Bands, fondly referred to as AOB, is booked and busy year-round. But this summer is extra special as the Grammy-award winning collegiate band continues to play at venues no other band has ever done. On June 13, AOB is going to our nation’s capital for a performance at the White House for the second time! However, before heading to Washington D.C., they will make history at home as the first collegiate marching to open for the Country Music Association (CMA) Fest on Thursday, June 8, in Nashville.

TSU’s Grammy-award winning Aristocrat of Bands debut at the Grand Ole Opry April 4, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

AOB Director Reginald McDonald said he is more than proud to be a part of this summer’s festivities.

“We are honored to make history yet again by performing for the CMAs and even more ecstatic to be invited by the First Lady of the United States to celebrate Juneteenth for the first time as a nation and during Black Music Month,” McDonald said. 

TSU Marching Band will kick off the CMA Fest Hall of Fame Ceremony with a parade down the John Seigenthaler pedestrian bridge at 9 a.m., followed by a performance on the Riverfront Stage at 9:40 a.m.

“We are so excited to have the Grammy-winning TSU Aristocrats of Bands kicking off CMA Fest at the Chevy Riverfront Stage this year,” said  Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer.

TSU Marching Band will kick off the CMA Fest Hall of Fame Ceremony with a parade down the John Seigenthaler pedestrian bridge and a performance on the Riverfront Stage at 9:40 a.m.

“The band’s accomplishments are plentiful, especially throughout this past year, and we cannot wait to cheer them on as they showcase their talents while representing their school in front of the CMA Fest audience. Community is paramount to our mission at CMA, and we are honored to have the opportunity to support a historically black college and university in our Nashville community during CMA Fest.” 

After performing at the CMA Fest, band members will help celebrate the nation’s first official observance of Juneteenth with President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the White House.

“Huge shout out to our esteemed President Dr. Glenda Glover. The Aristocrat of Bands invitation is because of her incredible connections,” he said. “Anytime we have an opportunity to educate beyond the classroom I will always go the extra mile for our students and TSU.”

AOB and the Sophisticated Ladies performed at the White House for former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

Most recently, AOB made history as the first-ever marching band to debut in a live performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Shortly after, they were invited to perform for the Nashville Chapter of the Recording Academy’s annual block party on May 31.

TSU student Natori Simmons, a Nashville native who plays the tuba, said she was excited about the crowd’s reaction at the Recording Academy performance and looks forward to epic moments at the CMA Fest and White House.

“I feel extremely blessed that I chose to be a part of a program that continues to make history every day,” Simmons said. “We’re able to put our voice into these different spaces, and that’s really important for our community.”

Natori Simmons (Photo submitted)

Assistant band director Larry Jenkins said these are experiences that the band students, University, and alumni will never forget.

“From CMA fest to going to the White House, it is out of this world when it comes to the impact this makes nationally and internationally,” Jenkins said. “This gives the students the opportunity to literally make history and have something else to put on their resumes, make connections, and represent the university at the highest level.”

AOB performed at the White House for former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in 2016. TSU sophomore Stanley Grider said he recalls the day his friend, who is a TSU alum now, called to express his excitement about the White House performance years ago. Now Grider is traveling to D.C., to play the trombone and make his own memories with AOB.

Stanley Grider after a 2022 homecoming game performance. (Photo submitted)

“One of my friends was there (White House) at the time, and now I get to call him and say, ‘Hey, I’m following in your footsteps, we’re going to the White House too,’” Grider said. “It’s full circle for me, and I can’t wait.”

Grider, of Atlanta, said he is grateful for these experiences. “This exposure is different, and this is something no one else gets to see every day.”

AOB is also hosting their 10th Annual Edward L. Graves High School Summer Band Camp from June 11-17, marking this year as the largest High School Band Camp ever with 267 kids registered from across the country. To check out one of AOB’s recent historic performances, visit the Grand Ole Opry’s YouTube for their debut.

TSU music business program a pipeline for young Black music creatives

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Imagine a classroom where aspiring music creatives gather to discuss business strategies and receive firsthand experiences from top music industry insiders. This is the reality for students enrolled in Tennessee State University’s Music Business Accelerator Program (MBAP). Going beyond just an academic experience, the MBAP is paving the way for the next generation of young Black music creatives, while combating economic disparities within the music industry.

Rapper Waka Flocka Flame speaking with TSU Music Business Accelerator program students at East Iris Studios in Nashville. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

The university partnered with the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) to address underserved markets and provide firsthand resources and representation for Black commercial music students like no other. The MBAP’s second cohort left TSU students with a glimpse of their future careers after being exposed to insight from powerhouse executives, talent agencies, and top music artists.

TSU student Joshua “LilCEOJosh” Akhidenor said he never imagined shaking hands with his favorite Grammy award-winning music producer of all time, Rodney Jerkins. “This class was perfect for my career as a music producer and artist because it deeply taught me the music industry and the importance of knowing the business,” Akhidenor, of Memphis, said.

TSU student, artist Emmanuel “Mille Manny” Strickland performing at Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville before Waka Flocka Flame. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

While TSU student, artist Emmanuel “Mille Manny” Strickland had the opportunity of an opening performance for rapper Waka Flocka Flame at Brooklyn Bowl after winning an Music Business Accelerator class competition. The rapper told the students during class at East Iris Studios, that these opportunities are preparing them to step into the music industry. “Having this conversation is a peek into your potential future,” Waka Flocka Flame said.

TSU music business students spent the last four weeks with representatives from Tri-Star Entertainment Agency, Live Nation Entertainment, Rolling Loud, Wasserman Media Group, Def Jam Recordings, Amazon Music, Warner Bros., and more. TSU students had the opportunity to discuss marketing, record label deals, artists and repertoire, and financial literacy with music industry insiders.

TSU student D’rell Player, who aspires to become a producer and audio engineer, at East Iris recording studio. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, the co-founder and chair of the Black Music Action Coalition, said the TSU program has led students to employment and paid internships, and will continue to do so going forward. “We are really creating a pipeline for success in a tangible way,” Stiggers said. “Our goal is to create access and an opportunity for talent to be nurtured here (Nashville), stay, and grow a career here.”

Stiggers expressed how deliberate Nashville and Music Row have been in “isolating the Black creative community and the Black audience from this experience,” he said. “So, we were looking for ways to break down those barriers.”

D’rell Player, a TSU senior who is a commercial music major, said being in the studio with Waka Flocka Flame, felt like home. “This class has managed to put me in a work environment that I want to be in,” Player said. “It’s given me more lessons, experience, and exposure in my chosen career field than I ever could have imagined.”

Link Fisher III speaks with Amazon Music representatives during week three of the music business accelerator program. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

TSU senior Link Fisher III couldn’t agree more. Fisher, of Memphis, noted that discussing financial literacy with representatives from Live Nation was the highlight of the course. “This opportunity has made everything I have learned applicable to real life,” Fisher said. “That was the first time we sat down with a spreadsheet to see where the dollars go.”

The last day of the class concluded at the National Museum of African American Music with an All-star panel that consisted of Stiggers, BMG music company executive Tim Reid, Producer and songwriter Rodney Jerkins, Rapper Yellopain, actresses and artists Serayah and Bre-Z, SiriusXM’s media personality Swaggysie, and artist Daisha McBride.

Left to right, TSU students Matthew Lester, Tai Lomax and Brandon Allen at the National Museum of African American Music for a closing reception panel for the music business program. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

Actress and singer Serayah, widely known for her role on the musical drama TV series Empire, told the students to dream big and to keep going. “It’s important to push this program because it means so much,” Serayah said. “It can build us in unity, with our talent, we can really put the purpose together.”

The next generation of music creatives then received plaques from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to close out their Maymester course.

TSU alumnus Brian Sexton, the Community Outreach Chair for Nashville Music Equality, said that in order to make significant contributions to the industry’s economic landscape, Black creatives must have these resources, access, and educational opportunities. “We are heavily investing in our young creatives, and they are getting the support they need at every level,” Sexton said.

Actress and singer Serayah, left, taking a photo with TSU student Logyn Rylander during the closing reception at the National Museum of African American Music. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

“Our model in Nashville is the only model that puts students in a very high networking experience, high-level knowledge-based environment,” he said. “The access that takes literally a career to get to, these students had that access within one month.”

Music is deeply rooted in African American culture and has played a significant role in shaping music history. By offering classes like TSU’s Music Business Accelerator Program at HBCUs, the impact can be multifaceted and everlasting for young Black music artists and creatives.

For more information about the music business accelerator program, reach Dr. Crawford at macrawford@tnstate.edu.

About the Black Music Action Coalition

BMAC is an advocacy organization formed to address systemic racism within the music business. The Coalition advocates on behalf of Black artists, songwriters, producers, managers, agents, executives, lawyers, and other passionate industry professionals.

TSU to host nearly 40 educational, physical activity summer camps

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – If you’re a parent looking for activities to keep your child busy now that school is out, Tennessee State University might be just the solution. TSU is offering an array of summer camps, for all ages, to keep children engaged for the next three months. The camps include fun and educational enrichment activities to help retain what was learned during the school year. 

From Meharry’s summer Enhancing Virology Training (ENVIT) program, which aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students ages 15-16 in virology-focused careers, to the Eddie George HBCU Football Camp designed for high school football players interested in skill development and college recruitment, there is a wide range of camps available this summer.

Anthony Fallacaro, assistant director of Events Management, Camps, and Programs, stated that this year’s activities for Middle Tennessee students are essential as this is many of the participants first experience on a college campus.

“These camps and programs provide a safe space for students to build their skills in desired interest areas, develop social skills with their peers, and gain first-hand experiences in higher education environments,” Fallacaro said. “TSU takes great pride in providing these experiences and opportunities to our community.”

The Joe W. Gilliam Football Camp is a non-contact football camp for boys and girls ages 12 – 18. The activities are focused on teaching the skills fundamental to football, personal safety, various positions of interest, and improving on existing skills. (Photo courtesy Tennessee State University.)

Among the many exciting camps returning this year is the Verizon Innovative Learning STEM Achievers Program, which aims to engage students in grades 6-8, to interact with technology through on-campus summer intensive courses and year-round mentoring. This program provides students with firsthand experiences and creates a more diverse pipeline for future careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

The Grammy-award winning Aristocrat of Bands, fondly referred to as AOB, is hosting the Annual Edward L. Graves High School Summer Band Camp from June 11-17.

“This will be our 10th Camp,” said AOB’s Director, Dr. Reginald McDonald. “We are excited that this will be our largest High School Band Camp ever with 267 kids register from across the country.”

The Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) volleyball champ’s head coach, Donika Sutton, has a wide range of several training camps as well. From cubs to elite tigers camp, Sutton is hosting nine volleyball camps for girls ages six to 18.

The university is also a part of the Meharry-Vanderbilt-TSU Cancer Partnership High School Cancer Research Program, which focuses on the shared goal of eliminating cancer disparities through a proportional approach encompassing basic, translational, clinical, and population science for students ages 15-18.

Below is a list of this years summer camps. For more camp information email the Office of Events Management at emanagement@tnstate.edu or visit https://www.tnstate.edu/events/camps.aspx

Name of Camp/ProgramStart DateEnd Date
Meharry Cancer Summer Undergraduate Research ProgramSunday, May 21, 2023Saturday, July 29, 2023
Meharry Summer ENVIT ProgramSunday, May 28, 2023Saturday, July 29, 2023
The Joe Gilliam Football CampTuesday, May 30, 2023Friday, June 2, 2023
Meharry-Vanderbilt-TSU Cancer Partnership High School Cancer Research ProgramTuesday, May 30, 2023Thursday, June 29, 2023
Upward Bound / Trio ProgramTuesday, May 30, 2023Friday, June 23, 2023
HBC Youth Summer Camp – College of EducationTuesday, May 30, 2023Saturday, August 5, 2023
Eddie George CampSaturday, June 3, 2023Saturday, June 3, 2023
Engineering Exploration Camp IISunday, June 4, 2023Friday, June 23, 2023
National Summer Transportation InstituteSunday, June 4, 2023Friday, June 30, 2023
Men’s Basketball Team CampWednesday, June 7, 2023Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Men’s Basketball Elite CampWednesday, June 7, 2023Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Eddie George CampFriday, June 9, 2023Friday, June 9, 2023
Men’s Basketball Elite CampSaturday, June 10, 2023Thursday, June 1, 2023
TSU Aristocrat of Bands Summer CampSunday, June 11, 2023   Saturday, June 17th, 2023  
Language Articulation and Fluency Summer camp Monday, June 12, 2023Thursday, July 20, 2023
Eddie George CampWednesday, June 14, 2023Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Men’s Basketball Team CampWednesday, June 14, 2023Sunday, June 4, 2023
Eddie George CampSaturday, June 17, 2023Saturday, June 17, 2023
Memphis Grizzlies Summer ProgramSaturday, June 17, 2023Saturday, June 17, 2023
SITES-M/MUREP 3.0 Summer AcademyMonday, June 26, 2023Friday, July 14, 2023
Agriculture Summer Apprenticeship ProgramSaturday, July 1, 2023Saturday, July 29, 2023
Volleyball: Cubs CampWednesday, July 5, 2023Thursday, July 6, 2023
Volleyball: Blocking/DefenseFriday, July 7, 2023Saturday, July 8, 2023
Volleyball: Serving/Serve ReceiveSunday, July 9, 2023Monday, July 10, 2023
Engineering Concepts InstituteMonday, July 10, 2023Friday, August 4, 2023
All Star Mathematics InstituteMonday, July 10, 2023Friday, July 21, 2023
Verizon Innovative Learning STEM Achievers Program Monday, July 10, 2023Friday, July 28, 2023
Volleyball: Setting/HittingTuesday, July 11, 2023Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Volleyball: Middle School Basic SkillsThursday, July 13, 2023Saturday, July 15, 2023
Volleyball: High School Basic SkillsMonday, July 17, 2023Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Volleyball: High School Team CampThursday, July 20, 2023Saturday, July 22, 2023
Volleyball: Elite TigersMonday, July 24, 2023Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Women’s Basketball Elite CampSaturday, August 12, 2023Saturday, August 12, 2023
Women’s Basketball Elite CampSunday, August 13, 2023Sunday, August 13, 2023