Grammy-nominated gospel singer Jekalyn Carr and TSU New Direction Gospel Choir perform at the 2022 Essence Festival of Culture. (Courtesy photo)

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State University’s world-renowned Aristocrat of Bands (AOB) and award-winning New Direction Gospel Choir performed at the 2022 Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans

Sponsored by a partnership with McDonald’s, the festival highlighted African-American culture.

AOB, New Direction Gospel Choir and The Sophisticated Ladies led three spectacular performances during the festival, one of which the University band debuted their new single “Dance Revival” featuring Grammy-nominated gospel singer Jekayln Carr and the choir.

More than 1,000 festival participants watched the magic unfold.

Sponsored by a partnership with McDonald’s, the Essence Festival highlighted African-American culture. (Courtesy photo)

“Having an opportunity to premiere our original music at the Essence Festival is monumental for the AOB as well as the HBCU Band community at large,” said Dr. Larry Jenkins the assistant director of TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands. 

Reginald McDonald, AOB director, said the band will be seen in more unimaginable places. 

TSU drum major and trumpet soloist Curtis Olawumi said his first time in New Orleans was a once-in-a-lifetime experience as he met and spoke with his favorite trombonist, Jeff Bradshaw, when leaving rehearsal.

“That was the pivotal moment for me,” Olawumi said, noting that the pair talked about music and took photos. 

“Being able to perform on stage next to Jekayln Carr was a thrill,” he said. “I enjoyed myself and cherished every moment.”

The Essence Festival afforded TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands an opportunity to premiere original music. (Courtesy photo)

AOB is set to release a gospel album titled “Urban Hymnal,” primarily produced by Jenkins and two-time Grammy award-nominated writer Sir the Baptist. Grammy award-winning songwriter and artist Dallas Austin is the executive producer of the album, which features production from platinum recording artist, TSU alum Aaron (Dubba-AA) Lockhart.

Justin Butler, TSU New Direction Gospel Choir director, described the experience of performing at the festival and being featured on AOB’s upcoming album as “pretty amazing.”

“We were blown away to be asked to be a part of this,” Butler said, mentioning that the choir recorded their portion of “Dance Revival” right on the TSU campus.

“I can’t wait for the world to hear this,” he said. 

The album’s release date has not been disclosed as of July but includes features from known artists and singers such as Fred Hammond, Kierra Sheard, John P. Kee, Jekalyn Carr, Louis York, Dubba-AA, Take 6 and more.