Tag Archives: music education

TSU’s Road to the Grammys: AOB game changing album brings Black History Month full circle, adds mystic to Music City and beyond

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Gospel music has the power to inspire change, unite communities, and serve as a voice for the marginalized. Oftentimes, the concept behind a soul stirring song or project can be just as profound. As the case for Tennessee State University’s Aristocrat of Bands Grammy-nominated album. It all stated from an idea written on a napkin. 

In February 2022, Professor Larry Jenkins, assistant band director for the Aristocrat of Bands, met with Sir The Baptist to brainstorm ideas about what’s next for the world-renowned AOB.

L-r : The Urban Hymnal was executively produced by, Assistant band director professor Larry Jenkins, AOB Band Director Dr. Reginald McDonald, platinum recording artist, TSU alum Dubba-AA. Grammy award-winning songwriter and artist Dallas Austin and two-time Grammy award-nominated songwriter and artist Sir the Baptist

The two-time Grammy award-nominated songwriter and artist liked everything Jenkins shared during their meal. In this musical meeting of the minds, the concept for the album was born on a napkin from a Mexican restaurant. 

“It just hit me, we should do a whole album,” Jenkins said to Baptist.

His response: I was waiting on you to say that.

Fast forward a year later, Baptist is a TSU alumnus and AOB is going to the Grammys after being nominated for their 10-track album The Urban Hymnal in the Best Roots Gospel Album category. They are the first collegiate band in the history of the Grammys to receive a nomination. 

Jenkins, who is a co-executive producer of the album, said this accomplishment will change the trajectory of Nashville’s Music City reputation. 

“You have an HBCU band doing an album … which is something that has never been done to this capacity,” Jenkins said, noting that this opportunity was a cultural shift. “I hope this sparks another resurgence of the impact and importance of music. Not just Nashville, but north Nashville and Jefferson Street and how legendary this air is here.”

Jenkins is referring to the historic aspect of Jefferson Street and its longevity of cultural African American music. Not even a mile away from TSU, is the reason why Nashville has been coined as, ‘Music City.’

The Urban Hymnal album cover. (Photo by Garrett Morris)

The Fisk Jubilee Singers, founded in 1871, performed in front of Queen Victoria. A performance that established Nashville as a musical hub and contributed to the city’s reputation as a center of musical excellence. 150 years after being founded, the Jubilee Singers won their first-ever Grammy Award in 2021.

“We call Jefferson Street the Grammy mile,” Jenkins said. And AOB being nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Gospel Roots, the same category as Fisk Jubilee Singers, isn’t a coincidence. “Being a mile away from each other with so much history being packed into the biggest musical organization on both campuses is amazing.”

TSU alum Aaron ‘DUBBA-AA’ Lockhart, a platinum recording artist, and one of the executive producers for the album, said this award will mean more to just the university. “This is a cultural award for Nashville in itself. This will solidify Black music in the city,” Lockhart said.  

“Starting off at Fisk and ending off with TSU … this is something the culture needs.” Lockhart said he looks forward to honoring this award for ‘the roots that birthed us,’ and ‘being able to pass the torch,’ to future music students, AOB members and beyond.

Music education in many schools and institutions often prioritize the study of Western classical music, something that may result in a lack of cultural relevance and diversity in music. AOB band director, Dr. Reginald McDonald, who is also a co-executive producer for the album, said there is rich musical history and R&B moguls that orientated right in the heart of north Nashville.

TSU drum major, trumpet soloist Curtis Olawumi during a Fall 2022 performance. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“There is more to the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee than country music,” McDonald said. “For Tennessee State University’s AOB to have produced an album to tie together two of the biggest music genres within the African American community, (gospel and HBCU marching bands) is extremely significant,” he said.

“You start bringing awareness and bringing on the Black music scene.”

Currently, there are more than 280 AOB members. Bringing a Grammy back to Tennessee will be yet another one of the Aristocrat of Bands historic accolades, and a great way to kick off Black History Month.

The Grammys will take place this week, Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California. Listen to The Urban Hymnal album on all music streaming platforms such as Apple Music, YouTube, and or Spotify. 

TSU Music Student’s Career Sets Sail on Smooth Jazz Cruise

Graduate student Jazmin Ghent wins “Opening Act Competition” and opens for Sirius/XM Hall of Fame concert    


Jazmin Ghent
Jazmin Ghent (courtesy photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The musical ship for one Tennessee State University student has set sail and is on course to take her to destinations unknown where she will have the opportunity to be a positive role model for young musicians and help define jazz music for years to come.

Jazmin Ghent, a graduate student studying music education at the University, was recently the winner of the Smooth Jazz Cruise 2014 “Opening Act Competition,” beating out 22 other contestants for the right to perform on the final night of the cruise in front of a packed house, and to interact with some of her musical idols, including jazz icons Brian Culbertson, Boney James and David Sanborn.

“The experience was life changing,” said the Huntsville, Ala., native. “I was able to interact and speak with many artists who I grew up listening to and admire.  I had a lesson with Kirk Whalum, and personally interacted with Peter White, Keiko Matsui, Marcus Miller, Candy Dulfer and Mindi Abair to name a few. It is something I will never forget.”

Born in Heidleberg, Germany and raised in Huntsville, Ghent grew up around music and began taking piano lessons at the age of 5. She became the Sunday school pianist at only 8 years old and often practiced with the adult musicians and church choir members. After being introduced to the saxophone in middle school, she progressed to becoming the church pianist and saxophonist. “Once I was in high school, I discovered my passion for performing and teaching,” she said. “I also began playing professionally in the Huntsville area.”

After high school and a long list of awards including the NAACP’s ACT-SO award, she received a full scholarship to Florida State University where she majored in instrumental music education and jazz studies. After graduation, Ghent’s parents gave her the cruise on the high seas as a gift that would send her competing against other musicians vying for the top spot in an “American Idol” type competition.

“My parents had been on this cruise before and told me about the competition,” Ghent said. “I’ve always loved jazz from a very young age and thought this was a great opportunity.”

Once onboard the “Greatest Party at Sea,” Ghent had to initially compete against 22 other contestants who played everything from saxophone, piano, drums, and trumpet, as well as vocalists. She concedes that it was a bit nerve-racking the first round since the audience was voting on the 12 that would move forward, but even worse during the second round.

“Not only was the audience voting in the second round, but also jazz greats Brian Culbertson, Boney James and Marcus Miller,” she added. “My stress level was extremely high during that round because now I was playing for the very icons I had grown up listening to. The nice thing was that everyone was very supportive and encouraging.”

Ghent won the competition and the right to play the final night for the Sirius/XM Jazz Hall of Fame concert in front of more than 1,900 fans. Nervous, she spoke with Culbertson who told her to have fun and enjoy herself.

“After his encouraging words, I felt more comfortable playing and the nervousness turned into pure excitement,” she said.

After being introduced by both Culbertson and James, she belted our her rendition of “Summertime” composed by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. Receiving a standing ovation, James commented that he predicts Ghent has a big future in the music business. He should know since he has four gold albums, four GRAMMY nominations, two NAACP Image Award nominations, and a Soul Train Music Award to his name, and sales totaling more than three million records.

“Wasn’t that awesome,” James told the audience. “That was very soulful. It is heartwarming to see a young person like that to get up here and play with such passion.”

Culbertson agreed with James, uttering a resounding, “Wow!”

“Jazz is not going away,” he commented. “Seeing people play like that…she is keeping it alive and that is a beautiful thing.”

Dr. Robert Elliott, head of the Music Department, agrees with both, and said that TSU has a history of producing jazz greats.

“Jazz, America’s art form, has been an important part of TSU since President Walter Davis recruited students to form the TSU Collegians,” said Elliott. “That group produced great jazz musicians such as Jimmy Blanton, who became Duke Ellington’s bass player, Hank Crawford, the music director for Ray Charles, and many others who went on to influence America’s music. Jazmin continues the record of excellence in performance that has come to be expected of TSU music students and we couldn’t be more proud of her.”

Now that the competition is over, Ghent plans to focus on completing her master’s degree at TSU, as well as continue to compose, record and perform new material.

“I would like to perform and teach on a collegiate level,” added Ghent. “I am very passionate about the future of music and the future of Jazz. I want to make sure I am a positive role model for young musicians.”



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Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209


About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. 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 tnstate.edu.