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Army Air Force Navy


Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time, Part Time

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As a member of the military, Musicians provide musical support for all aspects of military life, including ceremonial parades, military graduations, and ship ceremonies. They provide quality music designed to support Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) operations, foster morale and esprit de corps, and to promote Canadian aesthetics and values, both nationally and abroad.

The primary responsibilities of Musicians are to:

  • Perform for a wide array of domestic and international engagements including:
    • Government and military parades and ceremonies
    • Public concerts, shows and festivals, public events
    • Military and state dinners
  • Perform as instrumentalists and conductors in various musical:
    • Concert Bands
    • Parade Band
    • Stage Bands
    • Dance Bands
    • Pipe and Drum Bands
    • Brass Quintets
    • Woodwind Quintets
    • String Quartets
    • Jazz Combos
    • Small Chamber Groups

Work environment

As ambassadors of goodwill, Musicians will perform throughout the world representing the CAF and the citizens of Canada. While on duty with a Regular Force band, personnel could find themselves in a wide variety of performing environments and venues, from performances in concert halls to providing musical support at ceremonial parades, all of which are integral parts of the military Musician’s life.

The Regular Force bands are:

  • 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, Courcelette, Quebec
  • The Central Band of the Canadian Forces, Ottawa, Ontario
  • The Royal Canadian Air Force Band, Winnipeg, Manitoba

If you chose a career in the Regular Force, upon completion of all required training, you will be assigned to your first base. While there is some flexibility with regards to postings (relocations), accommodations can’t always be made, and therefore, you can likely expect to move at some point in your career. However, if you decide to join the Primary Reserve Force, you will do so through a specific Reserve unit. Outside of training, your chosen Reserve unit will be your workplace on a part time basis, and you will not be obligated to relocate to a different base. As part of the Primary Reserve Force, you typically work one night per week and some weekends as a minimum with possibilities of full-time employment.

Career Overview




PETTY OFFICER 1st CLASS CHARMAINE CHADDOCK: I’m Petty Officer 1st class Charmaine Chaddock from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’m a musician currently posted to the Stadacona Band, in my hometown.

SERGEANT KEVIN FLEMING: And I’m Sergeant Kevin Fleming, originally from Guelph, Ontario. I’m a musician with the Royal 22e Régiment Band in Valcartier, Quebec.

FLEMING: Being a musician in the military is a great way to play different kinds of music. And we play all different kinds of music at an extremely high level.

CHADDOCK: We do a lot of military ceremonies, a lot of important engagements. And then we’ll go into, say, the Halifax Library and perform the ‘Til We Meet Again’ concert for our veterans and for our local people.

FLEMING: We’re not just doing symphonic repertoire or just big band, we’re doing both and we’re doing both of them very well.

CHADDOCK: A lot of times, we’re the face of the military. We are the people that are connecting with Canadians. Not every other trade gets that opportunity.

FLEMING: Being in the Regular Force, you’re getting paid at a much higher level than all but the highest-paid orchestras in Canada, let alone the pension or any of the other benefits.

CHADDOCK: That means not having to worry about whether or not you factored in the taxes for that last gig you did.

FLEMING: You’re not just playing in the same concert hall every night. You’re not just playing in a bar for tips. You’re really getting to be part of something that’s bigger.

NARRATOR: Musicians in the Canadian Armed Forces can serve part-time in the Reserve Force or full-time in the Regular Force. Working as a Reserve musician is a great way to supplement your income while studying or working full-time elsewhere. It can also lead to a full-time military musician career in the Canadian Armed Forces.

CHADDOCK: I started in the Forces, employed in the Reserves, and eventually a Reg Force position became available and I auditioned, and it ended up with a career in the Reg Force.

NARRATOR: Each Canadian Armed Forces band has its own unique working environment but the core of work remains similar. Whether at home or abroad, military musicians can expect to perform musical duties at functions organized in honour of members of the Royal Family, heads of state of foreign countries, and distinguished persons; government functions, military parades, ceremonies, and for the benefit of military personnel and their guests; activities in support of recruiting, military and civilian community; and music festivals and tattoos. Regardless of the element, the job of a military musician is to perform a musical instrument and to contribute to the band administration and operations.

CHADDOCK: So I don’t think there has ever been a typical week. I think every week of our job changes, every day changes, which I think is part of the draw; part of the attraction for me personally.

FLEMING: For a standard morning you’re going to be doing a full band rehearsal, whether you’re preparing for a parade coming up or for a concert tour. The afternoons are devoted to your secondary duties.

CHADDOCK: It’s not 100% music – you’re doing and you’re learning all these other skill sets. In my career I have managed finance departments within a unit. I have worked in supply. I have learned how to do Public Works contracting.

FLEMING: So some of my secondary duties involve Standards and Training, giving instruction to new musicians coming in, either from the Reserves or from civilian life.

CHADDOCK: I think the travel has been one of my favourite parts of this job. I’ve been to Ankara, Turkey. I was selected to go to the NATO School to learn about gender perspective in peacetime operations. That was one of the highlights of my career thus far.

FLEMING: Whether it’s travelling with your band around your province or around Canada – the band was just in Vimy for the 100th Anniversary, and that was moving. It was an honour to be part of that ceremony. Those memories, those are the best. When you’re playing for the Queen or for Prince Philip somewhere, it’s the kind of stuff that your mom watches on TV and she cries and she tells her friends.

Related Civilian Occupations

  • Instrumental Musician
  • Band or Orchestra Leader
  • Singer
  • Arranger or Composer


The first stage of training is the Basic Military Qualification course, or Basic Training, held at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This training provides the basic core skills and knowledge common to all trades. A goal of this course is to ensure that all recruits maintain the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) physical fitness standard; as a result, the training is physically demanding.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Musicians may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Voluntary Band Instructor
  • Pipe Major course
  • Pipe Drum Instructor course
  • Drum Major course

As they progress in their career, Musicians who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • Basic scoring and conducting
  • Intermediate scoring and conducting
  • Advanced scoring and conducting

Entry plans

The CAF enrols skilled Musicians through a competitive blind audition process to fill periodic vacancies.  Competitions are held periodically for available positions in the six Regular Force bands. Successful applicants have typically been experienced, professional musicians, many of them having a degree in Music Performance, Conservatory or University Certification, or equivalent professional musical experience.

Musicians must be multi-talented performers with experience in several musical styles, and must be able to adapt to all types of performance situations and to diverse audiences.

For more information about the application process or the audition procedure, please visit the Canadian Forces Music Branch page.

Part time options

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Musicians may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army or Royal Canadian Air Force. They are employed to provide musical support for CAF events and operations. Musicians employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis usually serve at a military base, wing, home port or ship located within Canada.

Find a Recruiting Centre

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic military training, qualified professional musicians who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills and advanced training through formal courses and on-the-job training.

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 92.8% of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.