Former TSU Band Member Makes History, Shares Stage with Beyoncé at Coachella

The Coachella Valley Music Festival may have been thousands of miles away from Tennessee State University and Nashville, but that didn’t stop the influence of the Aristocrat of Bands and the cultural sounds of the HBCU band experience from taking center stage at the event on Saturday night.

When mega superstar Beyoncé took the stage, former Tennessee State University band member Michael Jones performed with her as she made history as the first African American woman to headline the musical event. Jones was a part of the band and drumline that provided music for Beyoncé, in what many are calling an iconic performance.

Jones, a Florida native, along with musicians from other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), including Tennessee State University, Florida A&M University, Alabama State University, Prairie View A&M University, Hampton University, North Carolina A&T State University, Norfolk State University, Bethune-Cookman University, University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University, backed the Grammy Award-winning performer during her nearly two hour performance, which included a reunion performance with Destiny ‘s Child band mates Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland.

TSU Alum Mike Jones plays sousaphone as a member of DRUMline Live, an international tour based on the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) marching band tradition. Jones along with other members of DRUMline Live performed with Beyoncé at Coachella 2018 on Saturday. (submitted photo)

“This is tremendous exposure for our university and the other HBCUs that had band members perform with Ms. Knowles,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Our institutions have a rich history and legacy that many may not be familiar with, but a performance highlighting our cultural presence, with someone the stature of Beyoncé, creates an incredible buzz and interest. We are thankful for her knowledge of our contributions to the fabric of education and the scholarship program she has established specifically for HBCUs.”

The singer’s website issued the release to announce the four schools to receive the newly established Homecoming Scholars Award Program for the 2018-2019 academic year, through her BeyGOOD initiative. The universities include Xavier University, Wilberforce University, Tuskegee University and Bethune-Cookman College. One winner from each school will receive $25,000 for the 2018-2019 academic year for study in various fields. This is the second year for the scholars program created by Ms. Knowles.

Beyoncé’s historic show was the first time the 36-year-old had performed on stage in over a year.  According to a press release on her website, the set was “a celebration of the homecoming weekend experience, the highest display of college pride. The energy-filled production put the spotlight on art and culture, mixing the ancient and the modern, which resonated masterfully through the marching band, performance art, choir and dance.”

Reginald McDonald, TSU associate professor of Music Education and director of Bands, said he was thrilled to see the HBCU band experience shared at Coachella and around the world.

“As an HBCU band director, it is thrilling and exciting to witness our performance style influence pop culture,” he said.  “The admiration and excitement for HBCU bands extend far beyond a football game halftime.”

He cited the TSU Aristocrat of Bands performance at the White House, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Honda Battle of the Bands and their 2016 performance with Cedric The Entertainer as examples of performances that still garner positive feedback.

Founded in 1999, Coachella is one of the largest, and most profitable music festivals in the world.  It features a mix of popular and established artists with emerging artists from genres of music including pop, rock, indie, hip hop and electronic dance music.

Jones looks to continue his musical odyssey with the iconic superstar as a member of the sousaphones section. A second Coachella performance is scheduled for this weekend.

Department of Media Relations

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With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at