FORT BLISS, Texas - With a music career spanning more than two decades and an impressive number of military achievements, Albuquerque, New Mexico native Cpl. Caitlin Brody, a French horn player in the 1st Armored Division Band, was named the 2020 Army Band Active Component Soldier of the Year.
Army Bands provide music throughout the spectrum of military operations to instill in Soldiers the will to fight and win, foster the support of our citizens, and promote our national interests at home and abroad.
Judged by a panel of senior leaders from the U.S. Army School of Music, Brody beat out 275 other Army Band Soldiers in her competition category.
"This program recognizes some of the most outstanding Soldiers from across the entire Army Band program. The recipients represent not just exceptional musicians, but epitomize the total Soldier concept,” said Col. Bruce R. Pulver, Commandant of the U.S. Army School of Music. “They demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in technical and tactical proficiency, character, intellect, fitness, and leadership.”
In just the three years since enlisting, Brody has completed a deployment to Iraq, approximately 300 missions with the 1AD brass quintet ensemble, a full time role with the 1AD concert band, and two tours (Spring 2018 and Fall 2019) with the U.S. Army Field Band, the premier touring musical representative for the United States Army. She has also won several levels of Soldier boards at Fort Bliss and was recently laterally promoted to Corporal.
“I was completely caught off guard; I didn't even know I had been nominated! It’s a really amazing honor and I feel so proud that they even considered me,” said Brody.
“We’re very proud of her,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Moore, 1AD Band Commander. “She's very hardworking and self-motivated. Her Soldier skills, her marksmanship skills, everything a Soldier has to do -- she doesn't just do the minimum, she tries to do the maximum.”
Brody humbly attributes her many accomplishments in the Army thus far to her exceptionally supportive unit command team and senior leadership.
“I’d like to thank my unit command team Chief Moore and 1st Sgt. Holly Schultz and NCOs Staff Sgt. Sam Hunt and Staff Sgt. Anthony Corbett for being so supportive of not only my music aspirations, but also my Army-related goals; without them I wouldn't have had any of these opportunities,” said Brody. “I can’t imagine a unit more accommodating and supportive. It makes me so proud to represent this unit and the 1st Armored Division.”
Brody knew she wanted to play the French horn the moment she set eyes on the instrument during a school assembly at the tender age of 10.
“My first music teacher was Jim Malone. He was a brand new teacher at South Mountain Elementary School and was demonstrating various instruments,” said Brody. “I knew I wanted to play the French horn as soon as I saw it. When I came home that day from school I told my parents and they looked into getting a horn for me straight away.”
Brody acknowledges that her parents’ immediate support that day and every day since plays a critical part in her success.
“I was lucky to have parents that supported me in all of my endeavors as a child; they took me to all of my lessons and encouraged me from day one,” said Brody.
Brody continued to play the French horn throughout the rest of grade school into high school. Years of practice and her time as a member of the Albuquerque Youth Symphony led to her receiving a music scholarship at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Although she had been playing the French horn for nearly a decade by this point, it wasn’t until she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2009 that she decided to take the plunge and pursue music as her career.
“Even though I was in school for music, it didn’t mentally click in my head that I could make a career of it,” said Brody. “But then I thought, this was something I was naturally good at, could get paid for, and was a great tool for getting out and seeing the world.”
“It was a huge turning point for me; either I was all in or not, and ultimately I decided that I was 100% in,” she added.
That fierce dedication to her art led to another music scholarship at the University of Oregon where she received her post-bachelor's degree in 2012. It was here where she met her French horn mentor Lydia Van Dreel, Associate Professor of Horn at the University Oregon and music mentor Brian McWhorter, Associate Professor of Music at the University of Oregon, Music Director of Orchestra NEXT and the Eugene Ballet Company.
Brody attributes McWhorter as having had the most influence on her life and music career. “Without him my life would have been so different. He really helped me focus and set me up to be successful in music,” said Brody.
Brody won a third music scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and graduated with a master’s degree in 2014. This was also when she met another mentor who would have a significant impact on her life, Amy Jo Rhine, Third Horn of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. “I studied French horn under her while at school, but she continued to mentor me long after I graduated,” said Brody.
With her music education complete, Brody was ready to pursue her dream of playing in a professional orchestra.
“I was trying to get an orchestra job and it just so happened that there were openings for the Washington D.C. military bands,” said Brody. “I didn’t get called back for the bands I auditioned for, but an Army recruiter came across one of my audition tapes and convinced me to join the Army and play music that way.”
Dating back to the Revolutionary War, musicians have served a vital role in the Army by upholding tradition, entertaining our Soldiers, and serving as musical ambassadors of our nation.
Today, the U.S. Army is the oldest and largest employer of musicians in the world. With assignments around the world and a long list of benefits, the Army Bands offer talented musicians a unique opportunity to do what they do best: play music.
It was in the Army that Brody met her husband, also a musician in the 1AD band.
While she didn’t achieve her initial dream of landing an orchestra job, she feels that her life has turned out even better. Not only does she get paid to do what she loves, she gets to do it with the person she loves.
“It’s a total gift to go to work with your best friend and get to play music together,” said Brody. “And it’s all thanks to the Army.”