The fabulous Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands is no stranger to big crowds and big games, or even international travel. After all, they have played in the Georgia Dome, LP Field, and the Memphis Liberty Bowl almost every year since the 1990s. They were, after all, the first Black college marching band to perform at halftime for a National Football League nationally televised game—and they got their nickname ‘the Aristocrat of Bands’ from a sportscaster who was dazzled by the fantastic performance of the collegians from the Music City for an NFL game.
The band was the first Black college marching band to play in a U.S. Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C. in 1961 for John F. Kennedy. They were again invited and played for two more in the 1990s for President Bill Clinton and his Vice-President Al Gore in 1993 and 1997. In the 1980s the band traveled to Japan to play in the Mirage Bowl.
Since 1990, the band has been invited many times to play special gigs in big venues, and when TSU travels to St. Louis, Missouri in September to play football against Central State University of Ohio in the Gateway Classic, the band will be adding another major venue performance for an NFL team to their resume. You see, the game will be played in the Edward Jones Dome on September 28. The Jones Dome is the home field of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, coached by former Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.
But more importantly, the Rams’ senior director of communications is Artis Twyman, a TSU alumnus who showed team officials a YouTube video of one of the band’s performances and sold them on the idea of the band playing at halftime when the Rams host the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers in a nationally televised Thursday night game.
“Everybody thought it was a great idea and excited about the University performing in front of 62,000 fans,” said Twyman. “Not that many people in the St. Louis area have seen a show band like the Aristocrat of Bands. I am excited not only about showcasing them here in front of our fans, but also to a national audience.”
“This is a real honor,” said Dr. Reginald McDonald, acting director of Bands. “There are a lot of college bands in the country and only a very few ever get the chance to play in this type of venue.
“We are excited to perform in a different market and let the Midwest know what TSU is all about. We will have 12 days to put together the NFL halftime program, the pep rally for the Gateway Classic and parade, then a separate halftime show for the classic. All the performances will be different, and will surprise and thrill the crowds. It will be exciting for everybody.”