GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — It’s funny how your life can take an unexpected direction.  

Since at least kindergarten, Thomas Warner, Jr. was determined to be an architect. He ven had a full scholarship to college to study architecture, but you’ll find him in front of the North Carolina A&T State University Blue & Gold Marching Machine on most days as its assistant director.

“As soon as I picked that trumpet up, he influenced everything,” says Warner of the band director he had as a young man growing up in Atlanta.

That led Warner to attend Morris Brown College in Atlanta where he continued his music career.

“Some of the greatest situations that I’ve ever had in my life are being part of the HBCU culture,” he said.

Warner later studied at Florida State and is currently working toward his Ph.D. at UNC-Greensboro.

“While earning my degrees, I’ve been part of some great programs, but the preparation that goes into what we do for the students (at NC A&T State University) is second to none, and it will always be about the students,” he said. “We’re trying to get you to understand that you have to be one of those citizens…that are second to none.”

Part of that is performing in major events. Over the Holidays, Warner and other top staff members at NC A&T State University will travel to California to observe the Tournament of Roses Parade, so that they can prepare to perform there on New Year’s Day. 

Before that, The Blue & Gold Marching Machine will take part in the HBCU All-Star Battle of the Bands, which is a 20-year tradition in Atlanta that brings together some of the country’s top HBCU bands in a showcase to kick off Black History Month. 

This year’s event includes not just NC A&T State University but Alabama State, Bethune-Cookman, Norfolk State, South Carolina State and Tennessee State along with two high school bands from Atlanta.

One of the things Warner tries to help his students understand is the transcendent nature of music.

“Notes have to come off the page. You have to have an imagination, and you have to make sure that everything you play…has feeling behind it,” he said.

And it’s always special when those harmonic sounds are coming from The Blue & Gold Marching Machine.

“First of all, it’s Aggie pride. That’s one of the biggest things that you’ll always hear, whether you’re a graduate of North Carolina A&T or not,” Warner said.

See The Blue & Gold Marching Machine in action in this edition of the Buckley Report.