Calling Cadence

Artist Essay: Calling Cadence — a Musician in the Military

Essays Musicians' Posts

Calling Cadence is duo Oscar Bugarin and Rae Cole.  The Los Angeles based outfit has a new, self-titled acoustic album coming out in October, with some songs from it available now.  Oscar Bugarin wrote an exclusive essay for us about his time in the army and the way it worked for him while he was enlisted. Here is what he has to share: 

Music was always something that was a part of who I am. I grew up playing guitar and it is very much a part of my family, on both sides Bugarin and Sanchez. I had to put all that on the back burner during my time in the military – 6 years to be exact. I found myself in a singing competition by way of karaoke on my second deployment overseas in Africa in 2013, that stirred up the drive to devote my life to music.

In 2013, I was a brand-new Sergeant in 1-63 Armor Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, about to go on my second deployment, and I worked on vehicle named after old generals, and one named after a demi-god – The M88 Hercules. When I was deployed it was to provide security for a joint operations base called Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Africa. Some of us would be on guard duty, and others would be performing support jobs as clerks, mechanics, cooks etc., I was one of the lucky ones to be on guard duty at the gate. There wasn’t much to do, besides the usual guard activities. We weren’t allowed to read anything, play crosswords, or even sit down. We stood there with our weapons, in the African heat, and process civilians or government employees who entered and exited the base, and to keep unwanted visitors out. The only I could do to pass the time was sing. Luckily, the other soldiers didn’t mind it, they asked me to learn songs for them, and on my off time I ordered a guitar off of Amazon to fiddle around on at the smoke shack.


One day somebody finally told me “Hey, there’s karaoke Tuesday night at the Cantina” (where Army soldiers couldn’t drink without a signed memo from our commander). I took a little coaxing. Being a Sergeant, an NCO and a leader, I was a little hesitant showing my sensitive side to my soldiers, especially being in a place that was somewhat restricted. My fears and hesitations, were quickly forgotten when I launch into Beatles covers, Stevie Wonder and Elvis, and started taking requests. On a random karaoke night, I walked into a singing competition called “Operation Rising Star.” I had no idea what was happening but with encouragement from a buddy who was with me I decided to sign up. I won that first round, then the second, and finally the third round. To be honest, I don’t think I was very good back then, I don’t know how that happened, but it was the most fun and the happiest that I had been in a long time. Everybody on the base knew me after which lead to invitations to come and sing and hang out at the cantina, most importantly it got me writing again.

Winning the competition overseas bought me a plane ticket home a month early to participate in the competition’s international finals, with the top twelve contestants. I was super nervous, I’d never been in a singing competition before, nor have I had I considered myself a singer or vocalist. Growing up, I was a guitar player, never the lead singer in a band. I sang at church but nothing like this. The competition was broadcasted on every military base around the world, and although I never did get any of the prizes that were promised, it was quite the turn of events for me. I met a few civilians who volunteered competition, who were instrumental in encouraging and inspiring me to rethink my career choice and give music another shot.

In May of 2016, I was honorably discharged from the US Army in Fort Riley, KS and on my way to be a civilian again. I had a very clear direction to get back to playing music and back into the music scene in LA. It wasn’t about fame or recognition, but it took serving in the military for be to get back to myself and find what I was meant to do, which is music.


essay by Oscar Bugarin

Find more info about Calling Cadence and tour dates, here:

Check our our previous coverage, here: Interview: Calling Cadence is Striking While the Iron is Hot


Leave a Reply!