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Musicians play on the world stage within the British Army

The world watched on in awe as a 7,000 person strong procession from our Armed Forces chaperoned their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla through London on their Coronation Day. Included within this spectacle were 750 musicians - 40 of whom were from British Army Band Sandhurst.

Formed in 2019, the band, based at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) have played music for the world as part of the most important events in recent British history, but being a musician within the British Army isn’t a career path many are aware of.

Lance Corporal Ian Walshaw’s love of music developed as a child, but it was the British Army that allowed him to realise his full potential as a musician and today the British Army have released an interview with the Euphonium player to highlight our personnel within important non-combat roles.

At the age of 5 years old LCpl Walshaw’s mother, a singer herself, did something most parents would shy away from; she encouraged him to join a recorder club at school.

When he saw his uncle and cousins playing within a local band, he realised there was more to music than he was currently experiencing and longed for more. After graduating as a Bachelor of Music in 2014 from the University of Hull he began to further his education at the University of Huddersfield, where a friend in the Army Reserves was the band recruiter for The Band of The Royal Yorkshire Regiment. Recruited by his friend, Ian soon followed suit – playing French Horn within the Army Reserves alongside his Masters.

The Army had never been on LCpl Walshaw’s mind, but that was before he knew what opportunities were available to him and soon his Army career began to flourish. Moving to the Waterloo Band and Bugles of the Rifles in 2017, Ian got the opportunity to travel the world playing music and after an exciting 5 years in the Army Reserve, he joined the regular Army and transferred to British Army Band Sandhurst in February 2020.

British Army Band Sandhurst, whose primary outputs are to support State Ceremonial and Public Duties, commemorative, celebratory and repatriation events, are currently receiving c£12m of new and refurbished facilities under the Defence Estate Optimisation (DEO) Portfolio which is investing £5.1bn in a better structured, modern and more sustainable estate that more effectively supports military capability and aims to enhance the lived experience of our military personnel.

Comprising part new build and part refurbishment of existing buildings, the band will be able to take advantage of their new facilities when construction on the project completes in 2024.

Like the rest of the band members, LCpl Walshaw is looking forward to being handed the keys next year:

“The band are excited to have our own state of the art facilities, including a new purpose-built band room for rehearsals, a library, changing facilities and instrument stores as well as smaller ensemble rooms and individual practice bunks. It will be great for all the facilities to be in one building and not be split around the camp/local area.”

Once the new facility is open the musicians will benefit from state-of-the-art noise compliance systems to ensure they can practice and perform comfortably and safely. The project also includes sustainability measures such as heating provided by air source heat pumps and solar powered electricity.

Major General Richard Clements CBE, Director of Basing and Infrastructure recently joined project partners from the DEO Army delivery team and Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) at the ‘topping out’ ceremony which marked a significant milestone for the project as construction reached the highest point of the new building.

Speaking at the event, Major General Clements CBE said:

“I am delighted to see the excellent progress on these modern, bespoke facilities for British Army Band Sandhurst and I congratulate the project team on reaching this significant construction milestone. We trust this building will become a flagship facility to inspire future generations of Army musicians, who play such an important role in enhancing the reputation of UK Defence both at home and on the global stage.”

Having marched and played within both Platinum Jubilee and Funeral processions for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, LCpl Walshaw has experienced the full spectrum of occasions and emotions within his role. In 2022 he played at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and this year he was honoured once again to play for the world within the coronation procession for their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla

LCpl Walshaw said:

“The best part of Coronation Day was seeing how the British public came together in common celebration for a once in a lifetime event. The atmosphere for a performing musician was incredible. It certainly isn’t an opportunity you’d get as a civilian!”. 

LCpl Walshaw is enjoying a full and varied career within the Army, not only as a ceremonial musician, but also within his secondary role of CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radioactive and Nuclear) which involves operating a Chemical Decontamination Unit attached to a field hospital.

Making the most of all opportunities available, later this year LCpl Walshaw will be joining the Army Adventurous Training Group in Egypt on a Sub Aqua course which is designed to test the mental and physical resilience of our personnel.

With aspirations to be accepted onto the British Army Bandmaster Course in the future, LCpl Walshaw would like to eventually become a Royal Corps of Army Music (RCAM) Director of Music, but for now he is grateful to be able to fulfil his life-long passion for music within the British Army.

The British Army is recruiting right now to fill 10,000 jobs across the UK with more than 200 roles to choose from covering everything from frontline combat and cyber security to helicopter pilots, chefs and support roles.

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