Concert violinist becomes U.S. Army infantryman, paratrooper
January 31, 2013
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Jan. 31, 2013) -- Spc. Ean Scott Ulrich has yet to jump out of his first $65 million Hercules C-130 aircraft at Fort Bragg, but he has played a $13 million violin before -- a Stradivarius made in 1722.
Trained since the age of four on the violin, the 24-year-old Owatonna, Minn., native's life took an abrupt turn in early 2012 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army infantry.
Ulrich said that his decision was faith-based and the result of many prayers.
"The reason I joined the Army is to help people," said Ulrich, now a lanky paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team. "It is better to fight those who endanger our way of life halfway around the world than at home."
"In that sense, I am protecting my family. I feel like this is where the Lord wants me, and I feel like I'm making a difference," he said.
Ulrich's musical chops were a gift from a mother who loved music and playing the piano. When his interest began flagging in junior high, a stellar teacher not only rekindled his love for music but inspired him to pursue music as a profession.
The violinist has served in many leadership positions throughout his musical career, beginning with teaching music lessons to high school students when he was still in junior high. Since then, he has led and maintained a quartet that has played in numerous venues, including over 90 weddings.
While finishing up a degree in musical performance at Saint Olaf College, a recruiter visiting campus sparked an interest in Ulrich to serve in the Army.
"With my interest in teaching, he turned me onto the Special Forces and how they teach indigenous peoples," said Ulrich.
After college and a stint with a semi-pro orchestra, he decided to enlist.
"Other Soldiers don't understand how I could turn down $60,000 (a-year salary) or more and all that training to be a 'grunt,'" he said. Nor did his mother, who drove him to the various concerts and music lessons, but she is proud of his service as is his father.
Ironically, after only three weeks at Bragg, Ulrich was already playing the violin at a ball for his new unit, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The Army draws people from all walks of life, and for the most part, his new battle buddies take Ulrich's classical side in stride.
"They give me a hard time more because I'm the only one in my platoon with a degree and they think I should be oh so smart, but there's a lot to learn in the Army. I am realizing that, and I have a long way to go," he said.
Special Forces did not work out, but Ulrich still has big aspirations for his Army career that include both Ranger School and Officer Candidate School. The application process has already begun for both, he said.
In the meantime, he is looking forward to his first parachute jump as part of the 82nd Airborne Division. His first three attempts were scratched due to weather and aircraft equipment issues.
"To some of these guys who have been around here for a while, it's somewhat of a hassle, but I love it," he said.