By Alexis Clark and Cass Teague
History was made at the Grand Ole Opry on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. Tennessee State University’s Grammy-award winning Aristocrat of Bands marched through the doors of the Opry and up to the stage, filling the aisles with Tiger spirit for their historic debut in front of thousands of traditional Opry fans, along with a few dozen loyal TSU alumni and Band supporters. They were the closer for the Opry program’s first hour and gave a rousing performance.
Fondly referred to as AOB, the band has had many firsts, with appearances across the country at several iconic venues, including Kennedy Center in the nation’s Capital, among many others. Now, the trailblazing band has added to its list of ‘first to do it’s. Due to the limited size available in the venue, only about 80 band members and five Sophisticated Ladies participated in the 12-minute performance.
“Being at Opry tonight as an HBCU band … this opportunity is breathtaking,” said AOB’s director Dr. Reginald McDonald. “To be a band of firsts, we are excited. This is another opportunity for our students to learn beyond the classroom.”
“It feels so good to be here,” said Joshua Knox, an AOB drum major from Detroit, Michigan. “Being able to perform at this historic stage makes everything so great being here with my fellow band members.”
TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands is the first collegiate marching band to win a Grammy, the music industry’s highest honor, and they did so in the category for Best Roots Gospel Album.
AOB performed two songs from their Grammy-award winning album The Urban Hymnal. The band performed “Dance Revival” and “Blessings on Blessings.” The latter was performed with soulful sounds from the Grammy-award winning duo Louis York, who is featured on that song on the album, along with TSU alumna and flute professor Ashley “FluteBae” Crawford.
Aimee Rollins, a freshman from Atlanta who plays the clarinet, said the overall experience was another one for the books.
“Every time we perform it is a great time,” Rollins said, noting that the crowd’s energy was lively. “When they come and experience something new, introducing them to a new world of music they didn’t know about before. With a lot of TSU people in the crowd hyping us up, I really did appreciate it.”
Louis York lead singer and music producer Claude Kelly described the experience of performing with AOB at the Grand Ole Opry as “next level history.” Louis York, no strangers to the Opry, also performed a brief set earlier in the Opry program.
You can watch excerpts from practice and the Aristocrat of Bands debut at the Grand Ole Opry on Vimeo through this link: https://vimeo.com/815114564/d8d1569454
The Urban Hymnal is available on music streaming platforms Apple Music, YouTube, and / or Spotify.