NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Fisk Jubilee Singers, a vocal group at Fisk University whose tradition dates back 150 years, received a $1.5 million anonymous donation to establish a permanent endowment.

The university in Nashville, Tennessee, announced Thursday that the gift was one of the largest donations ever made to the Fisk Jubilee Singers, who also earned their first Grammy Award this year.

The musical tradition began in 1871 as a group of students who sang slave spirituals at public performances to raise money for the university. Over the years, their singers have preserved the music created by African slaves as well as served as ambassadors for the historically Black university.

The university said the money will established an endowed fund named after longtime musical director Paul T. Kwami, who is also an alumnus of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The university is committed to raising $5 million for the endowment to fund retention, recruitment and programming.

“This donation provides a wonderful lead gift, and we are hopeful many others will follow in this historic year,” said Kwami.