Whether at a ceremonial event or simply on the evening news, we have all seen military music performed at one time or another. You often hear about the combat role of the military, but rarely do you hear about these artists who are involved with the Armed Forces. Yet nearly 1,500 musicians hold this very special position in Canada. To find out more about them, Je Me Souviens sat down with Sergeant Marie-Pier Laflamme, CD, who is a trumpet player with the Royal 22e Régiment Band.
Sergeant Marie-Pier Laflamme, CD
A musician with the Canadian Armed Forces for over 13 years and based with the Royal 22e Régiment Band in Quebec City, Sgt Laflamme has several roles. In addition to being a trumpet player and production supervisor, she is also a sports officer and health advisor. Photo: used with permission
The role of music
Musicians have a vast history in the military, as music was used long ago for warning signals and also as entertainment. Before the advent of modern technology, armies used various instruments to communicate with the troops on the battlefield. Each army had its own codes with different rhythms signalling battle to the soldiers. There are many accounts from World War I about how music was used to calm and comfort wounded soldiers. Today, musicians primarily complement military life and particularly formal events such as parades, dignitary visits, Remembrance Day, shows, and festivals. Music therefore supports the operations of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The high-quality music of the CAF music service provides “a special connection and bond between the Canadian Forces and the Canadian community,” said Sgt Laflamme.
The Six Regular Force Bands in Canada
- The Stadacona Band of the Maritime Forces Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia
- The Naden Band of the Maritime Forces Pacific, Victoria, British Columbia
- The Royal Canadian Artillery Band, Edmonton, Alberta
- The Royal 22e Régiment Band, Quebec City
- The Central Band of the Canadian Forces, Ottawa, Ontario
- The Royal Canadian Air Force Band, Winnipeg, Manitoba
The Royal 22e Régiment Band is the only Francophone Regular Force military band.
Interview with Sergeant Marie-Pier Laflamme
We asked Sergeant Laflamme, who has been in the CAF for over 13 years, about what led her to choose a career as a military musician. For her, the most important thing was to make a living from her passion, which gave her the idea of a military career. Although she wasn’t sure if the military would be the right environment for her, she was pleasantly surprised to find that she really enjoys the daily discipline and structure. Never one to back down from a challenge, she immediately took to this environment of physical training, personal excellence, and teamwork. The idea of a stable professional career as a musician without having to hustle for freelance contracts was also a big plus that prompted her to dive head first into this adventure.
What does it take to become a Canadian Armed Forces musician?
As Sergeant Laflamme explained, “To enroll as a CAF musician, you have to go through a national audition” that does not require a specific degree or training. “Most musicians are undergraduate or graduate students, as that is usually the level required to be competitive at the audition.” Laflamme began her training as a classical pianist at the École de musique Vincent-d’Indy at the age of 4 and discovered the trumpet during high school. She decided to pursue her passion for music during her post-secondary studies and went on to receive a bachelor’s in jazz performance from Université de Sherbrooke. She is officially a trumpet player in the CAF, but she sometimes swaps her instrument for the piano or even sings on occasion.
What instruments are played in the Canadian Armed Forces?
The CAF has all the normal band instruments, i.e., flute, piccolo, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, French horn, trombone, tuba, bassoon, oboe, bass, double bass, piano, percussion, drums, bagpipes and drums. There is also a string quartet based in Ottawa.
Do military musicians ever participate in international missions or conflicts?
The role of the Music Services Branch is to produce professional-quality music to support military ceremonies and events. Music also raises the profile of the Canadian Armed Forces and provides moral support to the military and the community. Every so often, musician troops travel abroad to promote Canadian values and traditions. Musicians do not have active roles in international defence operations. They participate indirectly by supporting different ceremonies on the sidelines of the operation.
Do musicians have to take military training?
“Yes,” said Laflamme. “Like all other trades in the CAF, musicians have to take the basic military qualification course. During your military career, you also have to take other types of training to support your advancement, especially in terms of leadership and the basics of military organization.”
We wish a long career to all the military musicians who add some much-deserved flourish and fanfare to the CAF’s mission both here and around the world!
- “Musician“, Gouvernement du Canada/Government of Canada.
Musicianship in the military is a profession that is rarely heard of, but has a rich history! If you are interested in exploring this fascinating subject further, we recommend that you read Jack Kopstein’s book – Heritage of Canadian Military Music.
We wish to thank Sergeant Marie-Pier Laflamme, CD, for participating in this article as well as Warrant Officer Simon Paré, CD, Resource Manager, Canadian Forces Music Branch in the Directorate of History and Heritage – Music, for providing resources on this topic.