MUS Drum Corps Instigator Keeps the Beat

December 10, 2014

Fine Arts, Music

Senior Ahmed Latif helped found the school’s drum corps.

Senior Ahmed Latif helped found the school’s drum corps.

When he was a little kid, Ahmed Latif was always drumming – on tables, on desks, on walls, on his knee. He put his inner beat to good use in the fifth grade, when he began taking drum lessons, and soon thereafter, playing with Drums Unlimited Renegades of Rhythm drumline. This fall Latif, now a senior, helped launch the school’s first-ever drum corps. Now some football and basketball games – and even the fall play, The Comedy of Errors – have been punctuated by the beats of MUS Drum Corps’ 20 drummers.

Drawn from the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades, most of the players first picked up drumsticks just last summer, during camps at MUS taught by Renegades of Rhythm Director Andrew Hatfield and assisted by Latif. The snare-playing team captain had recruited members via a school assembly and social media.

“With his leadership and knowledge of music reading, Ahmed was extremely helpful at our summer drum camp,” Hatfield said. “His dedication is apparent in everything he does. When necessary, he will work with students one-on-one to teach group rhythms. He also heads up ‘emergency’ group practices beyond our scheduled weekly practice.”

Latif said he has been surprised at how well the drummers have progressed. “The first football game was hard on them,” he said. “They wanted to hang out with their friends. We figured out a balance because we want it to be fun.”

The idea for the MUS Drum Corps has been developing for a while. Lower School Principal Clay Smythe ’85 said that former Director of Student Life John Cady ’69 first proposed the concept. Smythe later challenged a seventh-grade Latif to start a group, and he has encouraged him along the way, including enlisting the Renegades of Rhythm to perform at last year’s Lower School Red and Blue football game and a varsity basketball game to generate interest. Judd Peters ’81, MUS director of school and community relations, also bolstered the cause, organizing the summer camp and promoting the group. Peters and Smythe, the drum corps club sponsor, lobbied for the continuation of the group in the fall semester and for the purchase of drums.

Generous donors have made contributions for the acquisition of instruments, and students pay a fee to support the lessons.

The son of Dr. Shazia Hussain and Dr. Kashif Latif of Germantown, Ahmed is a dedicated student with a 4.83 grade-point average and nine Advanced Placement courses on his transcript. He has honed his leadership skills and self-discipline by earning a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo and fencing with the MUS team. He also serves on the Diabetic Youth Council, which plans a yearly retreat for Mid-South young people with the condition.

Diagnosed with diabetes at 11 months of age, Latif has been active since childhood in efforts to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He recruited friends from MUS to participate in the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes in October of 2013 and 2014, raising more than $1,000 on both occasions. In the summer of 2013, he attended the JDRF Children’s Congress in Washington, DC, promoting funding for diabetes research among legislators.

Latif looks forward to attending college next fall, but he is not sure what his major will be.

“I am interested in diabetes research, film, and politics,” he said.

He also plans to keep drumming, perhaps playing in a pep band in college. Before he leaves, however, he wants to assist at MUS drum camp in the summer, so he can help the next generation Owl drummers keep the beat going.

Drum Corps members, including Captain Ahmed Latif, on left with cymbals, show off their new instruments.

Drum Corps members, including Captain Ahmed Latif, on left with cymbals, show off their new instruments.

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