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NEWS | Nov. 29, 2023

Flutist hits different note as 2023 National Guard Army Bands Soldier of the Year

By Master Sgt. Arthur Wright D.C. National Guard

Four years ago, Spc. Margaret Suarez was living in Buffalo, New York, where high temps in November can hover in the 30s, and the SUNY at Fredonia senior had her sights on graduation, a new career and something else shiny.
“I’ve been playing the flute since fourth grade, I did concert band, marching band, and knew that I wanted to major in flute performance in college,” Suarez said. “After college my goal was to land a career in music.”
When Suarez relocated to Washington, District of Columbia, it was her then fiancé who called a D.C. National Guard recruiter and inquired about a job post he stumbled upon within the 257th Army Band.
“As a service member, He encouraged me to join — he called the recruiter, and gave me the phone,” Suarez said. “But it’s different from many other military careers. A 42R (musician) is a part of the Civilian Acquired Skill Program (CASP) that allows you to enlist at an advanced grade due to your many years of training in your career field. For musicians, this is assessed through an audition consisting of prepared and quickly prepared musical excerpts that measure your musicianship and sight-reading ability. You have to play what’s there and do your best. It’s also essential to have strong sight reading skills because if missions arise, and you get tasked with new music, you’ll need to be able to play it.”
It's this level of skill that emphasizes why members of the 257th Army Band, “The Band of the Nation’s Capital,” are consistent crowd pleasers when tasked with events.

“I think people have an appreciation for our music, but they may not realize the amount of work and years of experience we have in order to perform at the level we do,” she said.
As a flutist for the Anacostia Winds and 257th Army Band, there’s concert missions throughout the National Capital Region, parades, and public requests to tend to. Suarez believes band members are not only driven by passion, but the responsibility of serving as brand ambassadors.
“Yes, we’re definitely ambassadors for the D.C. National Guard,” Suarez said. “We interact a lot with the community and bridge the gap between the military and the public. We like audience members who are engaged, who aren’t afraid to sing and dance. We make the military more approachable.”
In fact, during her tenure, she’s served on active duty for operational support (ADOS) orders as a Recruitment and Retention Battalion recruiting assistant, improved the organization’s social media reach, helped strengthen the brand of the band and greater organization, and increased the number of National Guard recruits.
“I’m committed to my craft, but also my organization,” Suarez said. “Years ago, at the nudging of my fiancé someone gave me an opportunity and I want to do the same. We have a lot of talented people within our ranks, but the future of the armed forces lies within recruiting. New recruits increase our force structure and therefore enhance our ability to defend our nation. We seek individuals that are ready to uphold the honor and responsibility that comes with wearing the uniform.”

Her character, adaptability and ability to multitask resulted in Suarez earning the 2023 National Guard Army Bands Soldier of the Year, Oct. 13. She was recognized for her leadership, presence, intellect, development, and what she’s achieved for herself and the organization.
“The purpose of The Army Bands Soldier/NCO of the Year Competition identifies those Army musicians who best embodied the concept of highly trained, disciplined, holistically fit experts and professionals,” said 1st Sgt. Mark C. Lucero, first sergeant at the U.S. Army School of Music. “Spc. Suarez also competed for the title of Army Bands Soldier of the year.”
The U.S. Army School of Music judges competitors during the period of Sept. 1, 2022 through Aug. 31, 2023. According to the USASOM, the award recognizes top Soldiers from the National Guard, Reserve and active-duty Army bands, who stand out among their peers.
“Spc. Maggie Suarez is an amazingly dedicated and creative Soldier. Her can-do attitude along with her skills from other disciplines blend together to enhance our unit at many levels above her pay grade,” said Sgt. Jacob Kohut, 257th Army Band member. “From her superior musicianship as a flute player to her talent in designing content for our social media page, our unit is much stronger with her in our ranks.”
“I think this speaks for my leadership team,” added Suarez. “They’ve supported me, recognized me and I’ll keep serving and developing.”

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