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Band profile of the month

Staff Sergeant Benjamin Ruffer is the Bandmaster of the Band of the Royal Armoured Corps, part of the Corps of Army Music.

This interview will give readers an insight into his career so far.

Where did your passion in music begin?

My parents introduced me to music at a very young age as my father was a music teacher.  At the age of six I asked to learn the violin and a year later I started to receive lessons on the piano also.  Later that year I auditioned, successfully, for a place in Chichester Cathedral Choir, following in my father’s and uncles’ footsteps.  I spent five years singing eight services a week, during this time I also started to learn trumpet and organ.

After leaving Chichester I joined the Junior Department, Trinity College of Music, London where I studied violin under Adrian Dunn.  This was pinnacle in realising my love for all genres of music.

How did you come to join the Corps of Army Music (CAMUS)?

I always intended to join the Army and this was cemented after joining my local Army Reserve Infantry Company,part of 3rd Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment at seventeen.  When I started my application to join the Regular Army I was intending to attempt the Army Officer Selection Board,with hopes of joining the Royal Green Jackets whom my Grandfather had served with.  Whilst undergoing the application process I discovered I could serve whilst playing music and this appealed greatly.  After working with the Band of The Life Guards for a week,I successfully auditioned to join CAMUS.

What were your favourite moments in the Band of The Life Guards?

Throughout my time in The Life Guards I was fortunate enough to take part in all State and Ceremonial Parades within London.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of the band was working with the horses.  I did not ride before undertaking the five month equitation course, so it was a challenge.  Once qualified you can then become part of the regimental display team, The Musical Ride.  It was on this that I became extremely attached to one particular horse, Epernay.  He, like me had only just finished his training so we were new together. 

The proudest moment during my service with The Life Guards, was being selected as The Field Officer’s Trumpeter on The Queen’s Birthday Parade (Trooping the Colour) twice.  It was made even more special by being able to ride Epernay, whom I will hopefully re-home when he retires from Army service.

Another spectacle and one of my personal favourite engagements was Garter Day.  This takes place on the Monday of Royal Ascot.  This is the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry and was founded in 1348 by Kind Edward III.  Every year there is a luncheon which up until 2013 was accompanied by an orchestra from The Household Cavalry.  This is a wonderful occasion as you get to see HM The Queen at her most relaxed, as she personally chooses every knight with no input from the government.  Basically it’s her club of friends!

As a member of The Life Guards and especially as a State Trumpeter, I have been able to be privy to some of the most exciting engagements CAMUS can offer.  I have played for State Banquets, State Visits, Royal Wedding and Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to just a few.  The venues are also phenomenal such as Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, City of London Guildhall, Westminster Abbey, St Pauls Cathedral and the list goes on.

How did you become a Bandmaster?

In March 2013 I attended a three day selection at the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall.  During this time all aspects of my musical and leadership abilities were tested.  This included conducting, orchestration, harmony, analysis, instrumental performance, command tasks, fitness and interviews with both senior military personnel and music professors.  I was selected to start the first One Year Musical Direction Course which has replaced the three year Student Bandmaster Course.  This was an extremely intensive but highly rewarding course.  Upon the successful completion of the course I was promoted to Staff Sergeant and assigned to The Band of the Royal Armoured Corps.

How are you finding your first appointment as Bandmaster?

This has been an interesting few months trying to find my feet in a brand new job.  It has been helped by the band who have been welcoming and friendly.  My first day in the band was extremely daunting, as I was conducting on an Army Foundation College Harrogate Pass Out Parade.  The Chief of General Staff, the inspecting officer, was extremely shocked by my answer to his question of “how long have you been in the band?”.  I have experienced the best and most worthwhile engagement since being in the Army.  This was a tour to Afghanistan providing musical support over the Remembrance period. 

I am now looking forward to the next calendar during which we have some interesting foreign tours.  These include musical support to British Forces Germany, Cyprus and possibly Rome. 

I’m very much enjoying being a part of a Multi Capability Band.  Even though many engagements are similar, the wide variety of music we perform is fantastic.  There is always a challenge be it playing Big Band charts, which I have very little experience in, or conducting the latest pop song to hit the charts.  It is a thrilling time to be involved in Army music as it is evolving for the modern Army.

Do you have any interests outside the Army?

I love all things to do with the countryside, my main hobby is shooting that my son is desperate to join me in.  However as both my wife and daughter ride horses most of my spare time is spent with them, usually being a groom.  I also have a keen interest in military history my focus being the early 19th Century. 

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