Music and the Military: Q&A with Carlos Rivera

Carlos Rivera is a student in the commercial music program, and he is also a cadet in the Air Force ROTC program. Though those two may not seem to coincide much, Rivera has found a way to join his passions into a varied, fulfilling life.

This Q&A with Carlos gives a glimpse into that life.

  • Please describe your involvement in the Air Force and why you chose to join:

I am currently in my fourth year of being a cadet in the Air Force ROTC program at BYU. It is basically a program where you learn how to become a leader and officer in the Air Force during the time it takes you to earn a bachelor's degree. Therefore, when I graduate in December I will also commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the USAF and start my military career.

I grew up as a military brat with my father being in the Army. Until I returned home from my LDS mission, I never thought I was capable of being a military man so I had planned to just pursue  a career in the music business industry instead.

After a lot of maturing through my mission, I realized that I enjoyed the security that the military provided my childhood and I desired the same for my future family. Even more importantly, I felt the need to not only serve my God, but to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather and father, and serve my country as well.

  • Please describe your involvement in the Commercial Music program and why you chose to join:

I’ve been involved with music since I joined band as an alto saxophone player in the 6th grade. Once Guitar Hero was released, I was introduced to rock music and other genres which led to me getting my first guitar. As my love for heavy music grew in high school, I eventually switched over to guitar and put my alto saxophone aside. Since heavy metal guitar classes do not normally exist in public schools, I learned to teach myself a lot about music and how to create it.

As a commercial music major, I am learning how to be a “jack of all trades” individual in today and tomorrow’s music industry. My main instrument is of course the guitar but I’ve chosen to become classically trained in my playing for collegiate and professional purposes. I am also heavily involved with the live commercial music bands at UVU as well, including, “U.V.Groove” (pop funk band) and “VERDANT” (pop punk band). While I thoroughly enjoy being able to play and perform different types of musical genres aside from metal and classical, it is even more satisfying to be able to produce the kind of music that I love.

  • How do the two inform each other, and how are they different?

I always get asked why I chose to be in the military as a music major. The answer is simply “diversity.” I’ve always been the kind of person to learn and try to be good at a little bit of everything. I get bored easily doing just one thing for a long time.

I also want to break the assumption that a serious musician can’t be happy and or successful in the military and vice versa. My musical creativity has helped me to make better decisions as a prospective military leader and military discipline has helped me to be a more responsible musician.

  • What are your career goals?

My main goal is to be an Air Force intelligence officer. In order to keep my music degree active, I also plan on having an at home studio for personal and commission projects. If the Air Force ever needs me to be involved in their bands, then I will be the first to volunteer. However, I know that I will need to be flexible and that any and every experience I receive will help me to be a better person overall. I am excited for what the future holds for me and my family.

  • What do you like about being a UVU student?

Besides the amazing new Noorda building, I really appreciate the UVU faculty and professors. All my instructors have many years of professional experience in the industry. Not only do they love what they do, but they also sincerely want all of us to succeed and are willing to do everything they can to help us make a living doing what we love most. I am very proud to a Wolverine and am grateful for what UVU has provided for my education and future.

Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

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