Military musicians represent the armed forces in an official capacity as performing musicians.

Military music has a long history, from marching with drum and colors to trumpet flourishes announcing the arrival of a leader. Today, that tradition continues: each of the various branches of the U.S. military has one or more dedicated musical ensembles that perform on behalf of and in support of the armed forces. These musicians are enlisted service members who perform in ceremonies and public events or even on the battlefield. Live musical performances from military musicians are standard at events such as inaugural celebrations, parades, or state funerals; when government officials or high ranking military officers make big moves, a military band is sure to be there to mark the occasion.

It's important to remember that military musicians are held to the same exacting standards as any enlisted military member. This means completing basic training, adhering to strict disciplinary rules, and being prepared for the possibility of deployment. Military careers require commitment, precision, and a strong sense of duty; they're definitely not for everyone, though many classically trained musicians benefit from the structure.

Military music work may include...

  • Performing at official state, federal, and military functions
  • Following military protocols
  • Rehearsing with an ensemble
  • Serving as musical ambassadors to diverse groups
  • Maintaining a degree of physical fitness

Most military music jobs are long-term contracts with benefits and a unique degree of stability. For some, a military music career can resemble an ordinary symphony or musical ensemble; they learn new pieces and arrangements, rehearse frequently, perform often, and occasionally tour. Certain musicians will be charged with the maintenance of instruments, practice space, or recording and amplification equipment; others may be responsible for archiving performance material or selecting pieces for specific occasions. It's possible, though uncommon, for military musicians to be deployed in wartime, though musicians may be ordered to relocate to a specific base or area upon being accepted into an ensemble.

Becoming a military musician has two formal steps: auditions and enlistment. It's crucial to do these two steps in the right order, which can look different from person to person. A trained musician who is considering a military career for stability should audition successfully before formally enlisting, while someone who is certain they want a military career may enlist first and audition for a military ensemble after some exploration. Military recruiters often look for promising students in prestigious music schools and conservatories. Some scout for recruits at marching band performances, orchestra recitals, or voice concerts. There are 130 military music ensembles across the U.S. armed forces, and a limited number of spots for new musicians. Positions in high level ensembles are extremely competitive with infrequent turnover, but for a determined newcomer, a successful audition could be the start of a great career.

If you're inclined to serve the armed forces, but also want to make something of your music skills, military music careers might be perfect for you.

US Army Bands provide music throughout the spectrum of military operations, inspiring soldiers to fight and win.

The United States Navy Band entertains audiences and supports the Navy with some of the best musicians in the country.

Air Force Bands use music to bridge language, cultural, societal, and socio-economic differences through world-class musical presentations and ceremonies.

Then U.S. Marine Band is America's oldest continuously active professional music organization, founded in 1798 by an act of Congress.

The US Coast Guard Band is the premiere band representing the United States Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security.