TSU Collegians

TSU’s Grammy win is a historic first – here’s another bit of TSU music history . . .

“Many people around the country seem to think that jazz education started in 1950 in Denton, Texas, at West Texas State,” said the late Dr. Andy Goodrich*, an alumnus of Tennessee State University. “They don’t know the role that black colleges, especially TSU as well as Fisk, played in getting jazz acknowledged in the educational curriculum, and how the efforts of great jazz players while they were students at these schools helped get the music respected and recognized academically on campus.”

The TSU Collegians were formed in 1946 by TSU’s president, W.S. Davis, who hired Jordan D. “Chick” Chavis, to go on a national recruitment tour to find 20 talented young black high school musicians to form the Collegians. Around the country at other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) similar things were happening. Goodrich notes that “the black college jazz movement enabled musicians to get undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field.”

Jazz at HBCUs actually goes back much further, with student-led ensembles featuring such Jazz greats likes of Jimmie Lunceford and Doc Cheatham (Fisk) and Erskine Hawkins and Benny Powell (Alabama State).

When the Collegians were formed, its early members besides Goodrich himself included musicians who went on to become noted Jazz artists. These included Trumpeter Louis Smith, guitarist Les Spann, and trombonist Jimmy Cleveland. The late Leonard Morton, Sr., a distinguished educator in Nashville for many years, was an early member of the Collegians.

To learn more about this important chapter in Jazz history, you can read Andy Goodrich’s article here.

Also see Ron Wynn’s 2003 article in the Nashville Scene.

* Andrew Goodrich, Ph.D. (1938-2019) graduated from TSU, was a member of the Collegians in the 1950’s, and went on to a long and distinguished career in academia and as a professional Jazz musician. His article, “Jazz in Historically Black Colleges,” appeared in the Jazz Education Journal in November 2001. Dr. Goodrich was a guest at the Nashville Jazz Workshop in 2003 and delivered a talk based on this paper. READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE