Tennessee State University Marching Band Makes History Winning First Grammy Award

HBCUs made their mark during the 65th Annual Grammy Awards in a major way.

Vibe reports Tennessee State University made history as the first marching band to take home the Grammy for Best Roots Gospel Album for their performance of “The Urban Hymnal” and being featured on J. Ivy’s “The Poet Who Sat By The Door,” which won Best Spoken Word Poetry Album.

Sir the Baptist, a songwriter and producer, and Assistant Band Director, Larry Jenkins, accepted the award on the band’s behalf. Jenkins said the win is needed for the culture. “You see the Grammy’s; You see the NAACP Image Award nominations, all of these amazing things that are expanding the culture, expanding the brand,” Jenkins said, according to Vibe. “This means a lot as well because it’s rooted in the culture. You have the highest award in music and in this culture that we’ve been able to tap into.”

While all members of the Aristocrat of Bands couldn’t attend, TSU posted a video on Twitter of a watch party hosted on campus for the band and fellow students to bask in their major accomplishments. As soon as the band won, students jumped to their feet, chanting, “AOB! AOB!”

During his acceptance speech, Baptist shared what had to be done financially to make the win possible, stating how underfunded HBCUs are. “HBCUS are so grossly underfunded to where I had to put my last dime in order to get us across the line,” Baptist said. “We’re here with our pockets empty, but our hands aren’t.” Jenkins finished by thanking school officials, band staff, and the students for all their support. “Your hard work and dedication created the pen that allowed you to write your own page in the history books,” Jenkins said. “We all know we made history, but this is also February. We also made Black history.”

Tennessee State University follows in the footsteps of fellow Tennessee HBCU, Fisk University. In 2021, the Tennessean reports the historic Fisk Jubilee Singers won Best Roots Gospel Album for “Celebrating Fisk!” during the group’s 150th anniversary.