The Aristocrat of Bands was one of only four university marching bands and the only historically black college or university to participate in this year’s Rose Bowl Parade. Photos by Aaron Grayson

By Emmanuel Freeman

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University’s Aristocrat of Bands once again showcased its excellence to the world with a spectacular performance in the 2022 Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day.  

One of only four university marching bands and the only HBCU to participate in this year’s Tournament of Roses, the AOB also captivated huge crowds and fans in a “West Coast swing” that included performances in Disney Land, the African American Museum, and a halftime show for the Los Angeles Lakers in the Staples Center.  

Aristocrat of Bands performs during 133rd Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California, on Jan 1, 2022.

TSU President Glenda Glover, who traveled to California with a large group of TSU supporters to cheer on the AOB, also received rousing applauses during the various stops, including a cheering acknowledgement when her image was projected on the jumbotron in the Staples Center. 

“This is one of the most exciting moments for us and especially in the lives of these students to be able to represent the university at the Rose Bowl,” said Dr. Glover before leaving for Pasadena. “This is so special to represent TSU, the state of Tennessee, and HBCUs. That is just phenomenal.” 

The Aristocrat of Bands is celebrating 75 years of existence this year. Officials call the appearance in the Rose Bowl Parade the highlight of the anniversary celebration, themed “75 Years of Excellence.” TSU was invited to participate in the Tournament of Roses last year, but the parade was cancelled due to the pandemic. 

“In a perfect sense, us getting the opportunity to do the parade this year actually aligns well with this very significant year of the AOB,” said Director of Bands, Dr. Reginald McDonald, when the university received the reissued invitation. “This is the 75th year of the existence of the Tennessee State University AOB. The capstone performance of the anniversary is definitely the Tournament of Roses.”

With the parade and the “West Coast swing” now under their belt, band members and students can’t say enough about the experience, excitement and opportunity afforded them to represent their university. 

“As a graduating senior, my California experience was an amazing way to end my time in the Aristocrat of Bands,” said Tiara Thomas, who plays the French Horn in the band. “Each performance was electric and allowed us to make our mark in California. This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.” 

Fellow band member and lead drum major Travion Crutcher added, “My experience on the Aristocrat of Bands’ tour through California was truly amazing. We had the opportunity to showcase to the world what makes the AOB different from other marching bands. This trip was filled with memorable moments created with friends and with once-in-a-lifetime performances. Thank you to everyone who had a part in making this experience possible for me and my fellow band members.”

At the Staples Center, the AOB followed a longtime Lakers tradition, in which the HBCU selected to perform in the Rose Bowl Parade is also invited to perform at a Lakers’ game during the school’s visit. But this year, Lakers officials said the OAB’s performance was “out of this world.” 

“No coincidence that both the TSU Aristocrat of Bands and the NBA are both celebrating 75 years of excellence and triumph,” said Kiesha Nix, vice president of charitable affairs and executive director of the Lakers Youth Foundation. “The Lakers count it a privilege to be a part of this epic moment in time and to make lifelong memories for the TSU students!”  

Overall, band director McDonald said he is grateful for the opportunity and support from fans and supporters, and glad that the “students gave it their all with outstanding and superb” performances in all of their appearances. 

“The experience in California was really great. Our students were outstanding in their performances, and remarkable in how they conducted themselves. It says a lot about our students, our band staff and just everybody involved,” McDonald said. “We are still getting positive feedback from folks at all of our events. I must say thank you to our alumni. They came in droves like at Homecoming or at a classic game. Their support was overwhelming.” 

California is home to one of the largest concentrations of TSU alumni. Many attended the parade, while others, including fans from across the nation, traveled to cheer their “beloved AOB.”