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.