TSU President Glenda Glover, along with university and band officials, receive the official Tournament of Roses flag during the halftime show of the 2021 Homecoming game at Nissan Stadium. From left, are Band Member Jordan Hampton; TSU Associate Vice President and Chief of Staff, Dr. Curtis Johnson; President Glover; President and Chairman of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, Dr. Robert B. Miller; Director of Bands Dr. Reginald McDonald; and Band Member Rameek Nelson. Photo Courtesy of DeShun Smith

By Emmanuel Freeman

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — The Tennessee State University world-renowned Aristocrat of Bands is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with an invitation to the 133rd Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California, on Jan 1, 2022.

The band was one of only four university bands selected nationwide last year to participate in the Tournament of Roses, but the parade was cancelled due to the pandemic.

This year’s reissued invitation comes with the endorsement of Emmy and Peabody Awards-winning actor and director Levar Burton, the 2022 grand marshal of the Rose Bowl Parade. Also known as an educator and lifelong children’s literacy advocate, Burton – with followers in the hundreds of thousands – endorsed TSU and the AOB on his Twitter page. 

Dr. Reginald McDonald, Director of Bands

“Help the Aristocrats get to Pasadena and the Tournament of Roses Parade,” @levarburton tweeted. 

Termed the “West Coast swing,” the AOB’s California visit is also packed with other exciting activities. Before the parade on New Year’s Day, the AOB will take part in Bandfest, a two-day exclusive field show for marching bands selected to participate in the parade, to showcase their musicianship and unique talents. Performances at Disney Land, the California African American Museum, as well as a half-time show for the Los Angeles Lakers in the Staple Center, are also planned.  

And band members and students are exuberant.

“I am definitely excited to have this opportunity after waiting for a year,” says Tiara Thomas, student trustee on the TSU Board of Trustees, who plays the French horn in the band. She says the visit will be a major exposure for the university. 

“I am very thrilled to be a part. We have a number of things lined up just for people out in California who have not seen us or do not even know where Tennessee State is,” she says. “So, to be able to make this trip with most of my friends, I am really excited and very grateful.” 

Travion Crutcher, head drum major of the AOB, who will be going to California for the first time, says he is looking forward to performing in the Rose Bowl, but also “experiencing Hollywood from up close.”

“I am looking forward to experiencing in person what I see on TV shows and movies,” says Crutcher, a senior electrical engineering major from Huntsville, Alabama. “I am looking forward to embracing the culture in that part of the US.” 

Dr. Reginald McDonald, TSU’s director of bands, lamented the last-minute cancellation of the California visit last year, but is excited about the return, which he says aligns well with the 75th year of the existence of the AOB. 

“Like everybody else, I was extremely disappointed with us not being able to do the parade last year because of the pandemic, but at the same time I understood,” says McDonald, who announced “75 Years of Excellence” as the theme for the AOB’s anniversary.  

“In a perfect sense, us getting the opportunity to do it (the parade) this year actually aligns well with this very significant year of the AOB. This is the 75th year of the existence of the Tennessee State University AOB. The capstone performance of the anniversary will be the Tournament of Roses on January 1,” McDonald says, calling the appearance at the Rose Bowl a major recruitment tool.

About the invitation to perform for the Lakers, McDonald says while it is a challenge, it will be fun. “Whether it is the NFL, NBA or NHL, we have done it before.” 

Dr. Robert B. Miller, president and chairman of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, who visited TSU in 2020 to officially invite the AOB, returned to TSU recently to reaffirm the university’s invitation for the 2022 parade. 

“Only the bests of the best are invited and the Aristocrat of Bands is one of them,” Miller said in 2020 when he first presented the band with the official tournament flag and invitation, at a ceremony in the Gentry Center Complex.

The band’s last practice, before leaving for their break and subsequently California, is Friday, Dec. 17.

For more information on the TSU Aristocrat of Bands, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/aristocratofbands.