Tennessee State’s Grammy-winning Aristocrat of Bands visits South Bend
Jake Miller | Friday, September 1, 2023
Tennessee State’s trip to South Bend is historic in many ways. A slate of events this weekend honor Notre Dame’s first-ever matchup against an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). The Tigers are bringing their marching band, called the Aristocrat of Bands, along for the journey. Led by Reginald McDonald, the Tennessee State band gained prominence in 2022 after becoming the first collegiate marching band to win a Grammy.
During the game, the Tigers will play tunes from the stands in between snaps as usual for visiting bands. For graduate student quarterback Sam Hartman, playing in a new stadium will already be a challenge. Playing in a new stadium with an elevated environment will add a wrinkle to that challenge.
History of the Aristocrat of Bands
Many visiting programs bring their bands to South Bend. USC’s Trojan Marching Band always makes the trip. Smaller schools, such as Toledo, have also accepted the opportunity. But the Tigers’ presence will be markedly distinct.
Tennessee State will take the field during halftime to perform a full field show with a higher level of pageantry than Irish fans may be used to. The Aristocrat of Bands is known for their energetic displays, diverse musical repertoire including jazz, R&B and hip-hop and elaborate formations. In contrast to the Band of the Fighting Irish, the Aristocrat of Bands features an added emphasis on the performative aspect of the show. Drum majors are part of the show, rather than just acting as conductors, and engage with fans. The Tigers also have a dance team, the Sophisticated Ladies, that participates in the show.
A unique experience for fans
The two bands’ performances should make for a packed halftime. Additionally, new this year, in most instances where a team gains a first down through an in-bounds play, play continues without the clock stopping. The fan experience will be filled with action from start to finish.
Tennessee State head coach Eddie George’s team comes to South Bend after putting together a 4-7 season in 2022, which included a 16-3 loss against former head coach Deion Sanders’ Jackson State team. Since 2016, Tennessee State has had a handful of matchups against FBS teams, including a win over Georgia State. The Tigers have also faced Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee. Tennessee State pose a major threat to the Irish, but the weekend will bring a new display of tradition to South Bend.