For Red Deer resident Rob Goring, the highlights of leading the Red Deer Royals for a decade has left him with an array of happy memories.
His post as director of the acclaimed group officially ended this past August, although in a way, the parting began some time before that.
Goring didn’t actually conduct the band for about a year, allowing current leader Michael Mann to assume that responsibility.
But during those transitional months, Goring, 58, was still part of the organization as overall director.
Now, relishing the freedom of retirement, the long-time educator is ready to move onto new adventures. But it’s clear his involvement with the Royals has left a lasting impact.
“It’s an organization that really changes people’s lives,” he explains. “The testimonials I’ve heard from kids have been just incredible.”
Goring was recently honoured at the Royal’s yearly fall supper and general meeting. It was a special moment and he was also given the opportunity to share a bit with the audience.
“I talked about stewardship – that we all have a responsibility, as members and past members, to promote the band, and support it as best we can. It’s been around for 44 years, so let’s make sure it’s around for 44 more because it’s changing the lives of kids in healthy, positive ways.
“There’s this sense of camaraderie, of being a member of a team and everybody taking ownership of this whole thing,” he said. “They become, by the second or third year, so focused and driven and they take so much ownership of it. It’s incredible in that way.
“They also leave with this sense of belonging, purpose and mission and they develop confidence.”
So much of these qualities flow from the values and the history of the organization itself, he added.
Originally from Bassano, Goring’s family moved to the Crow’s Nest Pass region before settling in Fort Saskatchewan where he attended middle and high school.
He eventually settled on education as a career, with a focus on teaching music.
After graduating, he taught in Edmonton before moving to Red Deer with his wife Bev for a post at Eastview Middle School. He was band teacher there for five years, then principal for two years during which he still taught band as well. Many other teaching and principal positions were to follow at West Park, the Pines and G.H. Dawe schools. His most recent stint was as principal with alternative school programs for six years, following which he retired from public education. For almost all of that time he was also involved as a band director in the community.
As to the Royals, Goring took over as director in 2001 a few months after the sudden death of Keith Mann, who was also Goring’s friend and a major influence on his life.
Goring was approached shortly after Mann’s death about taking the director role with the Royals, and at first he declined because he was pressed for time as it was with his other commitments.
Ultimately, he agreed to lead the band through their summer European tour in 2001.
For Goring, it was absolutely wonderful but he still didn’t see his involvement extending beyond that. But on the bus from the airport back to Red Deer, he agreed to direct the Royals for a year. In time, he was fully onboard.
It’s been a remarkable journey – quite literally.
Under Goring’s tenure, the band has performed in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Ireland and Malaysia. Along the way, they’ve also picked up five world championships, four gold medals and about 500 kids have gone through the band program during that period as well.
Often times during their travels, members would stay with families that didn’t even speak English.
“Music was the common ‘language’ and common interest, so it was tremendous,” explains Goring. “Those were also transformation experiences – times when they started to look at life through a different lens.”
Ultimately, Goring knows he will miss plenty of things related to the Royals. But he moves ahead with a full heart and a strong sense of fulfillment.
“The things I loved – the activity and the amazing performances. Mostly, I loved the kids.
“And one the one hand, 11 years is a long time. There’s a new chapter and we’ve got some other exciting things planned for our lives.
“But on the other hand, there is how much I’m going to miss it. It’s tempered by the satisfaction of where the band has come to. There’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction in having watched the evolution of the band,” he said. “I feel incredibly good, positive and optimistic about the band moving ahead.”