From All-American Marching Band to All-American Soldier; one musician’s journey into the Army

By Jonathan E. Agee
The United States Army Field Band

News story photo
Photo credit: Command Sgt. Maj. Loran McClung
Christopher Sloan (third from left) marches onto the field at the Alamodome as a member of the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band in San Antonio, Texas. Sloan was one of 101 elite high school musicians selected to the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band in January, and since then has decided to become a Soldier.
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. — Christopher Sloan was one of 101 elite high school musicians selected to the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band in January, and the experience changed his life.

Sloan began playing an instrument in the sixth grade. He started out on the saxophone, but realized his true calling to play the French horn during his sophomore year in high school. “I wound up picking the instrument [French horn] and playing it that year, and was playing just as good as the seniors were,” said Sloan. “My instructor would say how much my playing improved in just that one year.”

It wasn’t just Sloan’s instructor that noticed there was something special about his musical talents. Friends and family began noticing Sloan had a special gift with music too. “He can play music by ear as well as by sight,” said Judi Sloan, mother. “He currently plays six instruments and recently learned flute for a jazz piece that the jazz ensemble at school performed.”

With the French horn in hand, Sloan made the regional honor band three times. During his senior year, he was ranked third overall best player in the South East Region of Arizona. Sloan’s musical enthusiasm and expertise made him a perfect candidate for the All-American Marching Band.

“My band director found out about the All-American Marching Band and nominated a bunch of us …,” said Sloan. “I ended up waiting till the middle of summer, then I was up late one night about 11 p.m. and I saw an email saying, ‘Congratulations, you are a member of the All-American Marching Band’. And I was pretty excited. I was just like, I wouldn’t say shocked, but I was surprised like when you learn that you earn something great. ”

For Martin Hebda, Band Director at Casa Grande Union High School, he knew if there was an elite high school band performance around, then Sloan should be a part of it. “He loved music, and most of all he loved marching band,” said Hebda. “I knew he would put a lot of time and energy into the program.”

As part of the All-American Marching Band, Sloan received an all-expenses-paid trip to San Antonio, Texas where he performed as a French horn player during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl at the Alamodome. And although Sloan feels this was one of his greatest achievements, what stuck out in his mind following the performance were his interactions with Soldiers.

“When I went to the All-American Bowl we had a bunch of Army people that talked to us,” said Sloan. “After asking thousands and thousands of questions, I started to realize this is something worth taking an interest in. And so when I got back home, I decided to speak to a recruiter and got insight from him. Then after about three weeks of talking to the recruiter I decided I wanted to do this.”

Although the Army has positions for musicians of Sloan’s caliber, he decided to take a different route – signal intelligence. The decision came after discussing various options with his recruiter and determining that the intelligence field was the best fit for his qualifications and interests.

Sloan’s mother had her concerns at first, but believes this is the best choice for her son. “Like any future Army family member I was scared and proud at the same time,” said Judi. “I have a great support group [the Fort Leonard Wood Army Moms] who help me through my fears. His recruiters are great too. They take the time to patiently answer my questions even if I've already asked the question before and need further clarification.”

Sloan ships to basic training June 14, and looks forward to serving his country and making a difference. When asked if he would ever consider joining a military band he said, “Down the road, I think I would.”

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