To celebrate the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian, the Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands performed on the White House lawn on Sept. 23. The audience for the museum’s dedication ceremony included various dignitaries and lawmakers, including President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
In the spring of 2016, the Aristocrat of Bands received a call from the White House asking for a portfolio, and in early September the band received an invitation to perform as a representative of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for the dedication of the museum.
“Words cannot express the gleam in their eyes and surprise,” says Dr. Reginald McDonald, director of bands at Tennessee State University. “They looked like 5-year-olds on Christmas morning. I just cannot explain how excited and surprised they looked.”
In preparation, the band rehearsed several tunes including “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” by Stevie Wonder and “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green. The band performed in a concert band setting along with its dancers and color guard outside the Oval Office.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” McDonald says. “I just can’t put into words what this kind of performance meant to our students and our university. It was a signature performance that allowed students all across the country to see us that might not have otherwise. I’ve been receiving calls from kids now interested in becoming a member of the Tennessee State band.”