Tag Archives: Aristocrat of Bands

AOB Celebrates Grammy Anniversary with Nashville Country Music Pop-Up Tribute

Call on the Grammy Award-winning Aristocrat of Bands (AOB), and you shall receive a historic performance. Tennessee State University’s AOB celebrated the anniversary of their Grammy win by delivering a performance inspired by the ‘Best Country Album’ Grammy nominees of this year’s award show. CBS contacted AOB for the performance to gear up for the prestigious awards ceremony that occurred this past Sunday. Music City tuned in and witnessed a spontaneous showcase as the AOB pop-up performance unfolded in front of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center downtown.

AOB warming up for the pop-up country music tribute as the performance unfolded in front of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. (Photo submitted)

Just days after receiving the call from CBS, AOB’s Director, Dr. Reginald McDonald, revealed that the band had just three days to prepare for the hour-long live performance. “Without hesitation, I was proud to relay the message to our band members that CBS entrusted us to deliver yet another historic performance, honoring this year’s Grammy nominees,” McDonald said.

As an HBCU band and the first collegiate band ever to win a Grammy, this presented another opportunity for AOB to showcase its musical range to the city of Nashville and beyond.

The band secured a Grammy for Best Roots Gospel Album, “The Urban Hymnal,” at the 65th annual ceremony held last year. The gospel album also features TSU’s New Direction Gospel Choir along with acclaimed gospel artist Jekalyn Carr, Fred Hammond, Kierra Sheard, J. Ivy, John P. Kee, Louis York, and more.

McDonald said the performance honoring this year’s Nashville nominees was an amazing way to celebrate their one-year Grammy anniversary.

For their pop-up show, the band kicked off the performance with ‘TSU Funk,’ an original by AOB. Following this, the band delivered renditions of songs from the ‘Best Country Album’ category, including “Smells Like Smoke” by Lainey Wilson, “Hey Driver” by Zach Bryan featuring The War and Treaty, “Nobody’s Nobody” by Brothers Osborne, “Penthouse” by Kelsea Ballerini, and “Rustin’ in the Rain” by Tyler Childers.

“This is another opportunity for our students to learn beyond the classroom and for people who may not be as familiar with HBCU bands to witness the excellence of TSU and what the university produces,” McDonald said.

As AOB continues to showcase their musical heights and leave a lasting impression on every stage they grace, this pop-up performance stands as a testament to TSU’s legacy and a great celebration of their one-year Grammy anniversary.

Listen to “The Urban Hymnal” album on all music streaming platforms such as Apple Music, YouTube, and Spotify.

TSU’s Grammy award-winning band to make historic appearance in Chicago Thanksgiving parade

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s Grammy award-winning Aristocrat of Bands will make another historic appearance when they march in the 2023 Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. The AOB, as the band is fondly called, will be the first band from a historically black university (HBCU) to participate in the “Windy City” parade that begins at 8 a.m. CST. For Chicago native band members, the appearance has a special meaning to perform in front of the home crowd of their families and friends.

Marshun David Mcgee, Jr.

“As a native of Chicago, doing the Thanksgiving parade is not only nostalgic but an important part of my life,” said Marshun David Mcgee, Jr.

“I remember doing the parade when I attended Thornton Township High School in Harvey, IL. This parade is known for its uplifting spirits.”

The TSU senior went on to explain how the parade all began.

“Starting in 1934, the purpose was to uplift those from The Great Depression. Seeing that we are currently getting over a pandemic, it is an honor to perform with the Aristocrat of Bands as the first HBCU collegiate band to attend. As a psychology major and music minor, it is my goal to uplift everyone’s spirits through music!”

Jibril Robert Lee

Fellow band member Jibril Robert Lee said while he’s marched in several parades, this will be his first nationally televised parade.

“As a first-year graduate student studying data science, this will without a doubt be a moment my family will look back on for years to come.”

“Not to mention the legacy that TSU has allowed me to build while I walked across the stage this past May with my bachelors in Computer Science,” Lee added.

The Chicago Thanksgiving parade is rated the number two best Thanksgiving Parade in the country by TimeOut.

Holiday favorite “This Christmas” will be one of the songs AOB will perform. Dr. Reginald McDonald, director of bands, said this is a fitting way to close out 2023.

“This has been a remarkable year for the Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands,” McDonald said.

“From being the first collegiate band to win a Grammy, to our second live performance at the White House within seven years, and to conclude our year with a historical performance in the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, as the first HBCU band, is truly a humble experience.”

 The long-time educator said he has been at TSU for 23-years, while teaching for over three decades.

“Teaching beyond the classroom has always been one of my goals. The opportunities of 2023 have been incredible teaching moments”

The 2023 Chicago Thanksgiving Parade route is on State Street from Ida B. Wells Drive to Randolph Street. TSU alumni outside of the Chicagoland area can watch the band on the national broadcast on Pluto TV, from 8 am – 11 am CST on November 23, Thanksgiving morning.

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.

TSU’s We Are One Homecoming Attracts Record Crowds

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s 2023 homecoming drew thousands of proud alumni, family, and friends from across the country to celebrate the annual week of activities. With the theme “Through Resilience and Perseverance, We Are One,” Tennessee State University proudly kicked off the weeklong celebration with the Robert N. Murrell Oratorical Contest and Gospel Explosion, followed by other traditional events like the coronation of Mister and Miss TSU, the homecoming parade down historic Jefferson Street, and, of course, the football game. This year also featured plenty of star power in the land of ‘Golden Sunshine.’

TSU student leaders cheering on the football team during the 2023 homecoming game at Nissan Stadium.

Homecoming chair Grant Winrow said this year’s events were ‘nothing short of perfection.

“We did a great job executing some fantastic enhancements to homecoming,” Winrow said.

“The highlight of my homecoming is that we had a wonderful time celebrating without any incidents reported. It was a very intentional effort that we partied with a purpose, with all the fundraising that took place.” Winrow also noted how livestreaming the legendary homecoming parade for the first time ever was a huge success, with thousands of viewers.

There was a warm welcome extended to the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Medical/Dental Accelerated Pathway Program cohorts during a white coat ceremony to honor students on their journey toward becoming medical doctors, dentists, and healthcare professionals.

TSU was the first stop on The Shop UNINTERRUPTED HBCU Tour. Guests for the live taping included TSU alumnus Dwane “Key Wane” Weir, Jr., actress and producer Crystal Renee, The Shop co-creator Paul Rivera and comedian KevoStage served as hosts.

TSU’s homecoming continued with a music concert featuring Kash Doll, Boosie, Moneybagg Yo, Glorilla, and more for students to have an unforgettable night with some of their favorite rap artists. In the midst of events, Mr. and Miss TSU, Davin Latiker and Victoria McCrae, had their special night, their coronation, during homecoming to officially wear the crowns as queen and king.

“To me, coronation is truly a magical experience,” said McCrae, who was crowned as the 94th Miss TSU. “It is a moment that you not only cherish with the currently reigning royal court but with all royals, admin, family, and students. Being coronated is an indescribable feeling. It is a true moment of happiness and an overwhelming sea of joy.”

TSU President Glenda Glover waves to the crowd of thousands at the 2023 homecoming parade heading down historic Jefferson Street

Davin Latiker believed that coronation represents a significant moment of recognition. “It is a night dedicated to acknowledging the remarkable achievements of the individuals within the royal court,” he said. “It’s an event that celebrates excellence and serves as an opportunity to reflect on the journey that brought us here.”

Hollywood came to campus as TSU was the first stop on The Shop UNINTERRUPTED HBCU Tour. Guests for the live taping included TSU alumnus Dwane “Key Wane” Weir, Jr., a Grammy award-winning music producer and songwriter who has worked with Beyonce, Drake, Jazmine Sullivan, and Big Sean just to name a few.

Hundreds of alumni, family and friends at the inaugural alumni “We Are One” Day party at TSU.

He was joined by actress and producer Crystal Renee, from Tyler Perry’s Sistas and Zatima television shows. The Shop co-creator Paul Rivera and comedian Kevin Fredericks, professionally known as KevOnStage, served as hosts. The TSU show will air in November on the show’s YouTube Channel and will also feature President Glenda Glover, the Aristocrat of Bands along with Mister and Miss TSU Davin Latiker and Victoria McCrae.

For alumni, the party was in full swing with DJ D-Nice. The DJ to the stars entertained homecoming crowds for two days, on Friday at the Ultimate Day Party and Saturday at the TSU Official Tailgate Event.

Coach Eddie George and the TSU Tigers are 4-2 this season after winning the homecoming game over Norfolk State.

Debbie Howard, director of the office of alumni relations, said that homecoming goers called this year’s events one of the greatest of all time. “With so many events being held on campus now, whether it’s the pep rally, the step show, the addition of the inaugural alumni day party or the parade, it just felt like home to many,” Howard said. “To many alumni, this homecoming was one to cherish for a lifetime.”

Homecoming culminated with the TSU football Tigers improving to 4-2 this season, with a win over Norfolk State. And of course, the Aristocrat of Bands stole the halftime show.

Tennessee State University’s Homecoming 2023 was more than an event but was a testament to the pride, unity, and excellence as one.

TSU announces ‘We Are One’ 2023 homecoming celebration

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – With the theme of “Through Resilience and Perseverance, We Are One,” Tennessee State University proudly announces homecoming 2023 is October 8-14.  Homecoming kicks off the with the annual Robert N. Murrell Oratorical Contest and Gospel Explosion on Sunday, Oct. 8 to start the weeklong celebration. In addition to the big game between fellow HBCU Norfolk State University and the TSU Tigers, major events will include Mister and Miss TSU Coronation along with the Royal Court, the scholarship gala, the legendary Jefferson Street parade, and numerous alumni and student activities. 

President Glenda Glover

“This year’s theme embodies the spirit of solidarity and unity that defines the university and its local community, said TSU President Glenda Glover. ” There’s no homecoming like a TSU homecoming. We have planned for a celebration that will welcome thousands of alumni back home to our campus, their campus.”

President Glover added that she is pleased to have TSU alumni, former faculty and administrators to serve as the grand marshals and honorees the homecoming. 

The Grand Marshals leading this year’s parade include former Senator Brenda Gilmore, state government administrator Dr. Turner Nashe, and Tennessee Tribune publisher and civil rights activist Rosetta Miller-Perry. The honorees are longtime educator and administrator Dr. John Cade, legal maestro-turned-community leader Sammy Comer, and retired TSU Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and English professor Dr. Gloria Johnson.

Grammy award-winning Aristocrat of Bands during homecoming in 2022 welcoming alumni, family and friends to TSU.

The Special Presidential Honorees, distinguished as lifetime achievement luminaries, include civil rights leader Dr. Xernona Clayton, ambassador and gospel music advocate Bobby Jones, the chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Institute, Dean Barbara Murrell, and former long-time director of Field Services and Extension, and director of Financial Aid Homer Wheaton.

TSU students will continue to benefit from homecoming with the Annual Scholarship Gala, TSU’s signature fundraising event. It will take place at 6 p.m. on Friday, October 13, at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Nashville. TSU homecoming Chair and director of strategic planning Grant Winrow said the gala gives alumni and supporters a chance to party with purpose and give back. 

Grant Winrow

“This is our biggest opportunity to let the world know how TSU has been a presence amongst colleges and universities across the country with our historical accomplishments and achievements,” Winrow said. “We have some of the most illustrious alumni who have stepped foot on this campus.”

Referring to this year’s honorees and grand marshals, Winrow said this is a selection to be very proud of.

“We have an unprecedented number of honorees this year. They are the epitome of dedicated service to the university.”

Student Government Association President Derrell Taylor said this year’s theme is impactful. “It’s a great opportunity to emphasize that we are one. We are part of the same product, goal, and mission,” Taylor said. “It’s meaningful because it is one of the most anticipated moments of the year. Students are excited to be able to put on their flyest outfits and attend some of the best events of the year.” 

Derrell Taylor

Taylor also noted how this is his last homecoming as an undergraduate student and Dr. Glover’s last homecoming as an active president. “This is our president’s final victory lap. It will be nice to see everyone come home and give her her flowers.” 

President Glover announced her retirement in August. 

Director of Athletics Dr. Mikki Allen said homecoming is all about the community honoring the past, celebrating the present, and investing in the future of Tennessee State University. “Homecoming is much more than a single event. It’s a celebration of history, culture, community, and the enduring legacy of Tennessee State University,” AD Allen said.  

“We know a major part of the celebration will be the football game. We’re excited to play Norfolk State University and I know Coach George will have our team ready to perform at a high level.”

Dr. Mikki Allen

The 2023 homecoming will also feature the now Grammy award-winning Aristocrat of Bands, who will be a major highlight of the TSU homecoming parade. Thousands are expected to line up and down Jefferson Street, hours before the big game, to see the trailblazing band. The parade route is from 14th and Jefferson Street to 33rd and John Merritt Boulevard.  

For more information on all the events for the 2023 TSU Homecoming, visit www.tnstate.edu/alumni/homecoming/

TSU shines at the 34th Southern Heritage Classic

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – It was a Tennessee State University takeover in every sense of the word as the City of Memphis turned TSU blue for the 34th Annual Southern Heritage Classic (SHC). Simmons Bank Liberty Bowl Stadium was also filled with excitement following head coach Eddie George and the Tigers’ thrilling victory over the University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff 24-17.  The win culminated a weekend of events highlighting the special connection between the University and the Bluff City.

The 34th Annual Southern Heritage Classic, located at the Simmons Bank Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee, held an attendance record of 32,518. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee state university)

This year’s classic also held a deeper significance for TSU ever since President Glenda Glover announced her retirement in August. “It’s an exciting win,” President Glover said. “There’s nothing like coming back to your hometown, being with your friends and family. Knowing that this is my last time to win in this stadium as president of TSU makes it all the more special.”

It was also special because it was the world-renowned Aristocrat of Bands’ first appearance at the classic since winning a Grammy earlier this year. The band was the highlight of the classic parade, bringing back childhood memories for TSU senior Oryanna Davis. Davis is a current cheer coach of the Little Tigers and has attended every SHC since birth.

TSU senior and cheer coach, Oryanna Davis, takes a selfie with the Little Tigers at the annual SHC.

“I’ve been to every Classic in my 21 years,” Davis, a Memphis native, said.

The TSU business administration major said her favorite part of the Classic every year is witnessing the Aristocrat of Bands (AOB) dominate the halftime show. She also mentioned that another highlight is being a part of the annual Orange Mound Classic parade with support from her family, friends, and former teammates. Davis was a part of the TSU cheer team for two years before becoming a Little Tigers coach.

TSU’s world-renowned Aristocrat of Bands dominates the halftime show against UAPB.

“I am around the people I love and doing what I love,” she said. “So being able to support the university and also have people around me support me is special.”

Hundreds of people lined the route to see the floats and participants in the annual parade, including President Glover, AOB, TSU student leaders, and local bands from across the Mid-South filling the streets. You could hear Davis’s family cheering her on from the parade’s sideline. Davis’s mother, Janine Jolliffi, said it takes a village to raise and educate children, emphasizing that the heritage of the classic is more than just a football game or a parade.

“It’s an all-out community event,” the Memphis native said. “We want to cheer for them, support them, and see them succeed. Not only in the parade, but we also want to cheer them on in education as well.” Davis’s younger brother, 14-year-old Omari Jolliffi, said their family has always been a part of TSU, even before his sister enrolled.

Oryanna’s family, including her mother Janine, and brother Omari, cheering her on from the Orange Mound parade’s sideline during SHC.

“The parade is a great thrill and rush I look forward to every year,” Omari said. He also stated that he plans to follow in his sister’s footsteps and graduate from TSU with hopes of becoming a veterinarian.

The classic means more than the action on the field for TSU.  It is also a significant effort in recruiting young students like Omari. West Tennessee, North Mississippi, and specifically Memphis are fertile grounds to recruit top high school students.

Director of Admissions LaMar-Octavious Scott, speaks with future TSU Tigers during the Classic College and Career Fair at Liberty Park in Memphis.

The TSU Office of Enrollment Management and Student Success spoke with many future Tigers during the Classic College and Career Fair at Liberty Park in Memphis. LaMar-Octavious Scott, the director of admissions, said the college fair was an outstanding experience as local high school students were eager to learn how to become a part of the Tiger family. 

“Not only was this a great way to promote the institution, but to be able to put the students in the front seat to their future,” Scott said. “It’s a great level of exposure that often helps meet the student’s expectation of wanting to attend an HBCU.”

Scott revealed that the office of enrollment had forged powerful connections with community leaders, igniting a surge in exposure through collaborative partnerships and initiatives. As the fair unfolded, there were over 2,650 students in attendance, more than 100 student inquiries, and 20 who were granted on-the-spot admissions.

SGA leaders were a part of the annual Orange Mound Classic parade cheering with a crowd of hundreds before the SHC football game.

Attendance for the football game was 32,518 with UAPB as a first-time opponent. With additional events such as the Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium tailgate, the Penny Hardaway Memphis District Golf Classic, and the Classic concert starring Gladys Knight, the 34th annual Southern Heritage Classic will be one to remember. 

TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands readies for historic Juneteenth celebration at the White House

Tennessee State University will be well represented when the Aristocrat of Bands performs at the White House Juneteenth celebration later today, Tuesday, June 13. The Grammy-award winning band, fondly called AOB, will be a part of an all-star music event as President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden host dignitaries for the first Juneteenth Concert on the White House South Lawn. The festivities will start at 7pm EST.

The band held a final rehearsal, at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, DC, before the big performance. Others set to perform include fellow Grammy winners Jennifer Hudson and the Fisk University Jubilee Singers. 

The nation will officially observe Juneteenth on Monday, June 19. President Biden signed the Juneteenth holiday into law in 2021. Hundreds of thousands of Americans celebrate Juneteenth to highlight the end of slavery. Juneteenth is the 12th federal holiday, and the first since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was signed in 1983.

Click here for video from rehearsal.

Celebrating community, culture and music other confirmed appearances will also include the following artists:

Audra McDonald

Broadway Inspirational Voices

Cliff “Method Man” Smith

Colman Domingo

Hampton University Concert Choir


Maverick City Music

Morgan State University Marching Band – The Magnificent Marching Machine

Nicco Annan

Patina Miller

Step Afrika!

“The President’s Own” United States Marine Band The concert is also taking place during Black Music Month.

About Juneteenth

Juneteenth, which has also been referred to as Black Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, not only marks the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas on June 19, 1865, but is also a historic moment in American history and the culmination of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that was written three years prior.


TSU Aristocrat of Bands makes successful, historic debut at CMA Fest

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s Grammy-award-winning Aristocrat of Bands continues to go where no other band has gone! This time, it was the 2023 Country Music Association Fest (CMA) in downtown Nashville, serving as the opening act. Early morning concertgoers rocked to the soulful sounds of AOB and watched the Sophisticated Ladies, creating an unforgettable HBCU band experience. Thursday marked another successful and historic performance as the TSU band became the first collegiate band to perform at the four-day music festival.

AOB members before hitting the stage at the 2023 Country Music Association Fest (CMA), in downtown Nashville as the opening act.

“This is important because people don’t usually associate country music with HBCU bands, said Hailey Russell, a Nashville native who is a piccolo section leader for AOB. “So, us performing today felt like bridging a gap and letting us celebrate music all around.”

Russell said the best part of the overall experience was kicking off the CMA Fest Hall of Fame Ceremony with a performance on the John Seigenthaler pedestrian bridge. “Playing on the pedestrian bridge with everyone who walked past being able to enjoy our music even if they weren’t there for the CMA Fest was my favorite part.”

AOB member Jayden Stitchcomb walks up the steps with his instrument, ready to debut at the CMA Fest.

TSU graduate student Jibril Lee, who plays the trumpet, said he was very excited about the outcome of the crowd and their performance. “It was a different stage, a different environment and it was amazing,” Lee said. “I’m feeling pretty excited about the future of AOB performances of this magnitude, like the CMA Fest.”

The massive crowd, at the Riverfront Stage, also roared with applause as the band accompanied local 8th grade student Ariah McEwen, who sang the National Anthem.

AOB and the Sophisticated Ladies rocked the crowd with an unforgettable HBCU band experience.

Assistant band director Larry Jenkins said the performance represented everything AOB and the university stands for. “This was an amazing performance,” Jenkins said. “I am glad we were able to represent the university on this stage and that the crowd got to experience the culture as we know it.”

While AOB’s director Dr. Reginald McDonald said he is grateful that the students took time out of their summer to be a part of CMA Fest memories. “For them to give up two weeks of their summer to be here for TSU, is truly amazing,” McDonald said.

“I am feeling extremely proud right now. This is the opportunity for people to see the excellence of TSU.”

To watch AOB’s debut at CMA Fest, visit TSU’s YouTube.

AOB accompanied IT Crestwell Middle School student Ariah McEwen, who sang the National Anthem on the Riverfront Stage at CMA Fest.

Next week AOB 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 on June 13.

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.

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 Band Director receives TMEA Outstanding University Music Educator of the Year award

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s Grammy-award winning Aristocrat of Bands Director, Dr. Reginald McDonald, has achieved yet another first. McDonald is a recipient of the Tennessee Music Education Association (TMEA) award for Outstanding University Music Educator of the Year. McDonald, who is also a tenured associate professor in the music department, is the first music professor at the university to receive this award.

“Anytime you win something of this magnitude, it is a huge honor and confirmation in regard to you as a teacher,” McDonald said. “This is confirmation that hard work pays off. Not for me, but for my students.”

The TMEA is a voluntary, non-profit organization representing all phases of music education at all school levels in the state. McDonald has been teaching music for more than 30 years.

As an experienced and committed teacher, over the years McDonald’s objective and expectations for his students has stayed the same. “My objective is to teach individual life coping skills and to develop the highest level of musicians.” He noted that life coping skills is his main priority due to teaching K-12 grades his entire career to minority students.

McDonald said his main goal for his students is to help development thick skin, a strong mind and to dream big. “My goal for them is to be able to accept the challenges of life and not run away from them.”

He has won teacher of the year five times throughout his career, including three awards from TSU. He has been a part of the TMEA since 2001 and was nominated to be the award recipient this month.

“Out of all the music professors in the state, I was chosen. I am honored and shocked,” he said. The award was not just a recognition of McDonald’s past achievements, but a reminder to him of the responsibility to continue being an outstanding music educator for years to come.

About TMEA

The Tennessee Music Education Association was officially formed in 1945 as a voluntary, non-profit organization representing all phases of music education at all school levels. The mission of TMEA is to promote the advancement of high-quality music education for all.