Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands is going to the Tournament of Roses. The band received an official invitation Tuesday to participate in the 2021 Rose Bowl Parade on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California.
The AOB will be one of only four university bands selected nationwide to participate in the parade, with a domestic television audience of more than 38 million.
“Only the best of the best are invited, and the Aristocrat of Bands is one of them,” said Dr. Robert B. Miller, president/chairman of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, who came to TSU to personally present the band with the official tournament flag and invitation.
“It is a major accomplishment for the band and for your university. This is a big deal,” he said. “In 132 years of the tournament, 107th Rose Bowl this year, your band is going to be there. You are going to do entertainment like no other band in our parade does. Our parade has got 22 bands, 45 floats, the best floral and entertainment groups in the nation and TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands is going to be there.”
At the flag presentation in the Gentry Center, amid thunderous cheers from university officials, relatives, former band members, and Mr. and Miss TSU and their royal court, Miller congratulated TSU, the AOB and band director, Dr. Reginald McDonald, for their hard work in submitting a successful application.
Miller, who was accompanied by his wife, Barbara, also pinned TSU officials present with the official lapel pin of the Tournament of Roses, including Dr. Alisa Mosley, interim vice president for Academic Affairs, who represented TSU President Glenda Glover. Dr. McDonald was also honored in recognition of his leadership.
In acknowledgment, the AOB, known worldwide for their melodious musical renditions and marching prowess, performed such favorites as ‘I Am So Glad I Go to TSU,’ and ‘Best Band.’
“This is huge and I am just excited beyond measure,” said band member Julien Dooley, after hearing his first trip ever to California will be to perform in the Rose Bowl Parade. “The Tournament of Roses is very huge, and I am excited because I actually have never been to the west coast, and the thought of my first trip being to perform before such a huge audience has got me very emotional.”
Dooley, an Atlanta native and a drum major with the AOB, is a senior commercial music major.
Fellow student Cailyn Sparks, a member of the AOB Sophisticated Ladies Dance Line, is equally excited. Her parents will be there to see their daughter perform.
“This is an opportunity of a life time and I am glad my mom and dad and maybe some other family members will be there,” said Sparks, a junior elementary education major from Phenix City, Alabama, who will also be going to California for the first time. “I am extremely excited about going to the Rose Bowl and excited to be there with my family.”
McDonald, TSU’s director of Bands, who could not hide his excitement about the announcement from the Tournament of Roses president and the reaction of the crowd in the Gentry Complex, called the invitation and the selection to the Rose Bowl Parade a “longtime dream.”
“If you know anything about parades in this country, the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Parade are numbers one and two,” he said. “To have either one of those parades on your performance as a portfolio, says a lot about your band program.”
Four college bands are selected each year to participate in the Tournament of Roses—two that apply and two with football teams that play in the Rose Bowl.
“This year it will be Tennessee State University and Georgia State University. That is huge,” McDonald said. “It says a lot about our university, it says a lot about the things we are trying to teach on a year-to-year basis. We selected to apply to the Tournament of Roses because to be recognized as the best, you have to participate in those things that are challenging and hard and are also part of being the best.”