TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands Thrills NFL Draft Watchers with Performance on ESPN’s ‘First Take’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Football fans across the nation who tuned into ESPN Friday morning to watch the NFL Draft in the Music City got a taste of the thrilling sound of the world-renowned Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands.

The AOB, known worldwide for their melodious musical renditions and marching prowess, were the featured guest entertainers on the nationally syndicated ESPN sports talk show, First Take, with popular hosts Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and Will Cain.

Stephen A. Smith, host of ESPN’s First Take, interacts with members of the TSU Aristocrat of Bands following the band’s performance on the popular sports talk show. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

Diehard TSU fans, friends and supporters were among the hundreds who made up the studio audience at Nissan Stadium. Daryl Rice and Brad Strode were among them.

“This is a very big deal,” said Rice, a former Flying Tiger and a 2015 graduate of TSU. “I am Big Blue true and true. I am a big First Take fan and to be able to see my fellow alumni and our band on live television and on this huge stage is an amazing experience.”

Strode, a 2015 graduate who also ran track for the Tigers and a big Fist Take fan, did not know the AOB were performing at the show until he saw the group enter the stadium.

“I was just so excited to see my school’s marching band,” Rice said. “It is always a great feeling when you see your fellow Tennessee State students in the house. It is even more exciting to see that my HBCU is here on this big stage with outstanding representation. I am just very proud.”

Daryl Rice, left, and Brad Strode, two TSU graduates, were among hundreds who saw the Aristocrat of Bands perform on First Take, the popular ESPN sports talk show. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

To kick of the show, hosts Smith, Kellerman and Cain joined band members in their opening rendition of “I am so glad I go to TSU.” The band also entertained audience members during commercial breaks with such favorite songs as “Aristocrat Opener” and “Best Band.” 

Band Director, Dr. Reginald McDonald, said it is a “huge deal” anytime the university has an opportunity to be exposed to this type of audience, whether nationally or internationally. He is thankful to the university administration for the support.

“This goes beyond recruitment for the university,” said McDonald, who added that he had less than 36 hours to prepare the band for their appearance. “It was all made easy because of the support of (TSU) President (Glenda) Glover, who immediately gave us the greenlight. We realize this is an opportunity for the world to see TSU.”

Julien Dooley, the AOB drum major, said coming to TSU has just opened him to so many opportunities. He called his mom, sister and girlfriend and friends in his hometown of Atlanta to tune in.

“One thing that I really like about the AOB is that the opportunities are plentiful,” said Dooley, a rising senior majoring in commercial music, who McDonald recruited a day after his graduation from Southwest DeKalb High School in his native Atlanta. “Since coming here, I have seen nothing but benefits like from going to the White House (to perform for the Obamas), to a studio session with (Emmy winning) music Professor Larry Jenkins, to being handpicked to do the NFL Draft on national television. I think anything with the AOB name on it is purely amazing.”

Dooley’s fellow band member, Tiara Thomas, also a rising senior majoring in political science, said she watches First Take every morning, but actually appearing on the show “was extra special.”

“I am really excited for this experience because it is something I watch at home every morning,” she said. “It is big to have an HBCU. We work really hard to brand ourselves and to get opportunities and exposures like this for our university. I am just really excited.”

Band members, along with TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover, graced the NFL red carpet the day before as a part of opening Draft Day ceremonies.

“I am so proud that our students, as band members, are included in a once-in-lifetime experience in their own backyard like the NFL Draft,” said President Glover. ”Our inclusion in the NFL Draft experience from the Draftville promotional video to opening ceremonies, and now an appearance on a nationally syndicated sports show speaks to our institution’s importance and notoriety not just in Nashville, but also across the country.”

Department of Media Relations

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About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.