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The Warren County Dynamic Marching Machine participates in the South Hill, Va., Christmas Parade.

 

The Warren County High School Dynamic Marching Machine has a state and national championship history. Today, its band director, Caleb Latham, and its members are determined to build a dynamic future that surpasses past accomplishments.

Latham took over as band director in 2020, following in the footsteps of longtime director Taylor Whitehead. When Latham arrived in Warren County, there was only one student in the band program. 

His first goal as new band director was to increase interest in the Dynamic Marching Machine. At the time, he worked at both Warren County Middle School and WCHS. However, with virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he devoted much of his band recruitment time to middle school-level students. A group of five girls in grades six through eight remained active with the band program throughout all of last school year and also formed a mini drumline.

This past summer, Latham found that Warren County Schools’ summer learning opportunities provided a great opportunity to recruit high school students with more than 15 joining the Dynamic Marching Machine.

“We started the summer slowly, but grew and grew,” he said.

Band class is also growing. In 2021, there was one band class at Warren County High School. Only two students participated. This semester, there are three band classes.

A key part of preparing for this school year was purchasing new musical instruments to replace older ones. While all of them haven’t arrived, students have been utilizing the trumpets, saxophones and baritones that are here.

However, because there is no band program at the middle school level at this time, Latham finds that his high school band students are at different levels. Those new to the band often have to learn to read music.

“It’s difficult starting the band from scratch,” Latham said.

In addition to band class, the Dynamic Marching Machine rehearses after school from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Band alumni have helped. Adam Henderson serves as percussion instructor, Vanity Newell is auxiliary instructor working with flags and dancers, and Melvin Harris assists with wind instruments.

Band parents have helped with snacks and carpooling to events.

Latham credits his experience in band in middle school, high school and college with helping him to develop life skills, including leadership, and wants his students to have the same opportunities.

“The program can turn kids’ lives around and change their perspectives,” he said. “Band is so much more than music.”

Latham is proud of his students for their dedication to the band program, time spent at home practicing and the attitude they bring each day.

“The students are starting to embody discipline, hard work, dedication and leadership.”

Over the Christmas season, the Dynamic Marching Machine has had several opportunities to perform, including the Holiday Jamboree at Norlina Junction Park, and parades in Norlina and Warrenton in North Carolina, and Petersburg and South Hill in Virginia.

This semester, Latham hopes to take the band to visit a number of college campuses, especially Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and for the band to participate in battle of the bands events.

He would love to see the return of a middle school band class, not only for the experience it will bring students planning to enter the high school program, but also for the assistance that its instructor can bring to the Dynamic Marching Machine as it continues to strive for success.

It is success that Latham and the band members envision for the future. They have set high standards, and expect it won’t be long before they bring home more championship trophies.

“The goal is to strive for the highest, to get back to where we were and be even better,” Latham said.