Captain Devin Sloos confesses that there are “a few challenges” he must confront as the new Commanding Officer/Artist Director of the RCAF Band.
Those challenges, however, should not be difficult to surmount, Capt Sloos said during an interview on February 13.
Capt Sloos assumed command of the band in June 2022 from former CO Major (formerly Captain) Chris Embree, who now works for Standards and Policy related to music at DND HQ in Ottawa.
Six months after assuming command, Capt Sloos went on paternity leave for five months. His wife had just given birth to their second child.
He had only been back at work a month at the time of this interview.
Capt Sloo’s journey into music began in grade six in Oshawa, Ontario when he began learning to play the trumpet before, switching to euphonium in high school. The euphonium is a valved brass musical instrument resembling a small tuba of tenor pitch and is played mainly in military and brass bands.
“I joined the reserves at the end of high school,” said Capt Sloos, whose wife, Erika, is also a professional musician.
“I did my undergraduate degree in euphonium performance at the University of Toronto, and my Masters’s in euphonium performance at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. I was commissioned upon returning, and became the assistant director of my reserve unit, HMCS York in Toronto.”
Then, in 2017, he won an audition for euphonium player in the Regular Force.
“I did a Ceremonial Guard as the assistant director of music that summer at Borden and four years at RMC (Royal Military College) as the music officer. Now, I’m here in Winnipeg.”
He calls one of the “challenges” he faces a backhanded compliment to the band.
“We are so talented,” Capt Sloos said.
He points, in particular, to the band’s vocalists: Warrant Officer David Grenon and Sergeant Cindy Scott.
They have a national following and are in wide demand, he said.
“When the Toronto Blue Jays (Major League baseball team) made it to the playoffs, they specifically wanted WO Grenan to sing the national anthem,” Capt Sloos noted.
He also observed that the other Regular Force bands have a partner.
For example, the Royal Canadian Navy has bands in Victoria and Halifax, while the Army has bands in Edmonton and in Quebec.
“The central band in Ottawa wears the Air Force uniform, but they actually belong to the Vice Chief of Defence Staff,” Capt Sloos explained.
“They work for Ottawa. Whereas we are the RCAF Band and support the Air Force efforts nationally. There is a lot of demand for us for the band. The Canadian public loves what we put out.
“I absolutely love my job. From a musical standpoint, it’s like I get to drive my Ferrari every day at work. You want it to do something. The band has the ability to do anything musically.”
He has inherited a wealth of musical riches.