'Aristocrat of bands' ready to battle at Southern Heritage Classic

'Aristocrat of bands' ready to battle at Southern Heritage Classic
Tennessee State University band (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Tennessee State University band (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - A little more than 50 years ago, the Tennessee State University band was given a nickname by a sportscaster during its performance at halftime of the NFL Championship Game.

The moniker stuck. Ever since, the TSU band, comprised of 285 people, has been called the "aristocrat of bands."

"There was a saying by the former director of bands that nothing can happen at TSU without the band being involved," said TSU acting director of bands, Dr. Reginald A. McDonald.

A staple at football games, the band makes an impact with every performance.

"It may be someone in the audience who can see us, but can't hear us," said TSU head drum major Semaj Wansley. "Or someone who can hear us but not see us. So, we always have to be on point."

Every day, the band puts in about 3 1/2 to four hours of practice. That translates into a 10 minute halftime performance.

Before the magic on the field happens, the fine-tuning begins the performing arts building.

'What makes us aristocratic is that we will incorporate any type of music if we feel it's good music, or will get the audience to respond in a positive way," explained Dr. McDonald.

That versatility recently paid off when the band became the first college band asked to perform at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, celebrating TSU great Claude Humphrey's enshrinement.

"The cheers from the crowd welcoming us as we came onto the field, it was a great experience," Wansley remembered.

The next biggest performance for the band will be the battle with Jackson State University at Southern Heritage Classic.

"A lot of these kids went to school with each other, and so there's a little sense of competition there," McDonald added.

"We are the aristocrat of bands because we're not just a band who goes and performs," said Wansley. "We're a band who everything we do is top notch. We are the aristocrats of all bands."

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