TSU Alumnus has film premiere on Disney+

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – For Tennessee State University alumnus Spencer Glover, it all started in an edit bay, in room 108 of the Performing Arts Center. It was the perfect campus space to be creative and bring his ideas to life. Now, Glover is reaping the benefits of his hard work, after pitching a 12-slide presentation to studio giant Disney that was adapted into a film.

From left to right: Van-Maurice Glover, Kariss Forte, Melissa Forte, Mercedes Glover, Stephanie Rakers on red carpet for Black Belts Premiere.

Titled “Black Belts,” the 20-minute movie premiered on Disney+ in September.  

“I was really excited and grateful for the opportunity,” Glover recalled the moment he received the call back after interviewing to direct the film.

“I was ready to dive in and get to work and was excited at the idea that on the other end of it, I would be a better and more confident director.”

The film explores the relationship between a Black father and son set against the backdrop of martial arts. Glover shared, beyond the Kung Fu and action, the film dives deeper into the conversation around masculinity.

“When people watch the film, I hope they see this moment between a Black father and son, being openly emotional with each other.”

Glover graduated from TSU with a degree in mass communications in 2012, and is also a former member of the Aristocrat of Bands.

Reflecting on his time at TSU, Glover emphasized, “TSU is so important to the foundation of my skills.”

He credited the university for providing an environment where he felt both safe and free to express himself creatively.

Spencer Glover in undergraduate school at TSU in the TV station during a musical showcase that he created called, ‘Next in Line’

“TSU was super vital to my life, career, and development as an artist.”

His former TSU instructors Joseph Richie, associate professor of Communications, and Melissa Forte, who was an assistant professor at the time, praised the filmmaker for his success.

Richie described Glover as one of the program’s pioneers, highlighting his drive and dedication.

“None of us are surprised that he’s doing very well now. He was extremely driven, active and took the program seriously. That’s why we’re here. To see students like Spencer’s success, this is the payoff for a professor.”

Forte noted Glover’s humility and diligence.

“Spencer is very humble and kind.  I think that served him very well at TSU,” Forte said.

The film Black Belts explores the relationship between a Black father and son set against the backdrop of martial arts. Beyond the Kung Fu and action, the film dives deeper into the conversation around masculinity.

“He was always in class going above and beyond to learn more and even taught himself how to do 3D animation and never stops learning.”

Glover’s advice for aspiring TSU students entering the film industry is to stay on course, and things will fall into place.

“You have to be dedicated to the craft and be resourceful,” he said. “You have to create on your own, make the connections on your own.” He emphasized that sticking to your own path and staying dedicated, would eventually connect the dots.

The Virginia native added that he always knew that showcasing his talent on a large-scale platform like Disney would elevate his art to unprecedented heights. He freelanced for Yamaha and Apple, following graduation, before moving to Los Angeles in 2020. Glover took on several independent projects before he and was accepted into Disney’s Launchpad Program for writers and directors from underrepresented backgrounds.

This gave Glover an opportunity to produce short films for Disney.

As a testament to his journey, Glover and his wife, Kariss, now own a production company called “Room 108,” named after the edit bay at TSU.

“I credit edit bay room 108 with being that space where we could get lost in our creativity and come out with something super dope. That space represents what we want to create for ourselves and other people coming into the industry.”

Glover also has paid it forward by coming back to the university as a guest speaker for the communications students.

Watch Glover’s film “Black Belts” on Disney+, presented by Launchpad.

VP of Student Affairs Frank Stevenson elected chairman of the Metro Hospital Authority Board

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is pleased to announce that Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Frank Stevenson has taken the helm of Nashville General Hospital (NGH) and leadership of the Metro Hospital Authority Board. VP Stevenson was elected board chair at the October meeting. In his new role, he continues to embody TSU’s commitment to service. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to be a part of the communities that border the campus and the city as a whole.

“This is a full circle moment for me because I remember my mother carrying me in her arms to Nashville General to get treated for an injury that resulted in getting stitches,” Stevenson recalled.

“It is also important to represent Tennessee State University in the communities we serve. I am honored to take on this significant role at Nashville’s public hospital. Just as I believe individuals should have access to a quality education the same holds true for access to quality healthcare.”

Stevenson has served the board for the past eight years and has also served as the chair of the finance committee for the past four years.

In addition to his executive management position at TSU, Stevenson also serves as the advisor of the New Direction Gospel Choir and Leadership TSU.

“Service is a major part of the student experience here at TSU. What better way to make a favorable impression on our students than to exemplify what it means to serve others.”

Stevenson holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin and a Master of Public Administration from Murray State University. He is currently completing the Doctoral Program at Trevecca Nazarene University. Stevenson recently served as executive director of a local charter school and executive deputy director for the Tennessee Office of Minority Health. He also serves on the boards of the Nashville Predators Foundation Board, The Tennessee Historic Commission and South Nashville Youth Football League.

NGH is Nashville’s first community hospital and first opened its doors in 1890. Today, the hospital sees nearly 60,000 patients annually. 

Billboard recognizes TSU’s Commercial Music program as one of the best in the world

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is now home to one of the top music business programs in the world. The October 7 issue of Billboard Magazine highlighted over 25 internationally acclaimed music business programs, including TSU, as one of the 2023 Top Music Business Schools.

TSU’s students are pictured with Tennessee native singer and actress CoCo Jones along with Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, co-founder and chair of the Black Music Action Coalition, and Def Jam Recording executives during a session of the music accelerator program held in May. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

“This is a major milestone,” said Dr. Mark Crawford, who serves as coordinator of TSU’s commercial music program. “Not every HBCU has this program to begin with. This recognition puts us on the global stage.”

Dr. Crawford expressed his excitement for what he believes is a remarkable achievement and recognition that will open doors to new opportunities for students. This is in the form of internships and career opportunities.

Sophomore Honoria Hodges is already reaping the benefits of the program. Hodges is currently a TSU Meistersingers and said what she is learning from the program, in addition to her talent, will set her up to become an R&B/ pop artist.

“It is wonderful that we received this recognition,” Hodges said. “This will get all our names (students) out there to get what we want out of our careers. And my experience so far at TSU has been very enlightening.” 

Honoria Hodges

In May, TSU offered students the music business accelerator program, a 4-week course in partnership with the Black Music Action Coalition. Students got a chance to collaborate with industry giants such as Wasserman Music, Amazon Music, Nashville Music Equality, the RIAA, Live Nation, and more. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity gave them access to internships and employment. Notable guest speakers included producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, BET and NAACP award-winning music artist CoCo Jones, rapper Waka Flocka, and others who provided valuable industry insights.

TSU alumnus Jonathan Boddie said it is unique opportunities like the accelerator program that sets the program a part. Boddie is a Nashville native and professional musician who graduated from the commercial music program in 2010.

Dr. Mark Crawford

“I think this is well deserved,” Boddie said in response to the recognition, especially noting that the university is in the heart of ‘Music City.’ “I want to raise awareness that we have one of the top programs, and we can also get people to invest into the school.”

As a professional musician, Boddie has had a residency overseas, and even lived in Korea for six months to pursue his musical career. Boddie shared that the TSU commercial program and Dr. Crawford have had the greatest impact on his career.

“Dr. Crawford has never stopped looking out for us. He is always going the extra mile to give you more opportunities and I cannot say that about any other institution I have been a part of,” Boddie said.

Jonathan Boddie performs with Blue Masala Band during a concert held at Red Caboose Park in Bellevue, TN.

“The professors really do care even beyond graduation and I appreciate that.”

TSU alumni of the commercial music program include Harry Fox Agency client solutions coordinator Dashawn Howard and two-time Grammy-nominated producer Dwane “Key Wane” Wier, II.

“I hope we will continue to build on this kind of momentum,” Crawford added. “Recognition by Billboard and other professional entities will lead to curiosity. This will create additional opportunities.”

TSU makes the list as one of the two HBCUs, alongside Howard University. The prestigious recognition from Billboard comes as the program prepares to celebrate 25 years of educating students.

Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the honor to the 25-year program is well earned, and well overdue. 

“I was ecstatic because I know how hard everyone works,” Morgan-Curtis said, referring to the department’s faculty, and especially chair Dr. Robert Elliot, and Dr. Crawford for ensuring the students have “access to real world applications.”

Commercial music alumni practicing for the upcoming ensemble event at TSU. From left to right, Jonathan Boddie on the guitar, drum player Jameel Aziz, and bass player Maurice Farmer.

“Our students are getting these paid internships that are allowing them to do not only what they are being trained in, but what they love,” she said.

To celebrate the anniversary, the University will host a Commercial Ensemble Showcase November 13-15 at the Cox Lewis Theater inside the Performing Arts Center. Showtime is 7 p.m. each night and is free and open to the public. Traditionally a two-night event, an extra night was added to mark this significant milestone, featuring an alumni commercial ensemble as well as a faculty ensemble.

As TSU’s commercial music program continues to shine on the global stage, Crawford, who has overseen the program since the inception, is confident that faculty will help to foster the next generation of performers, producers, songwriters, and industry leaders.

Check out Billboard’s latest issue recognizing TSU here.