July 6, 2018

Staying in formation: How Stampede Showband set the tone for Werklund alum's future

Ryan Hancock's teaching career took a surprising direction, and he couldn’t be happier
The Stampede Showband performs at the World Music Contest in Kerkrade, the Netherlands in 2017.
The Stampede Showband performs at the World Music Contest in Kerkrade, the Netherlands in 2017. Calgary Stampede

The marching band attracts all sorts of different people — from aloof to eager, from musically gifted to majorly clumsy.

In his years working with all sorts, Ryan Hancock, manager of bands with the Calgary Stampede, has learned you can’t teach everyone the same way — a fact that was underlined for Hancock while he earned a bachelor’s degree from the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary.

“Teaching is about finding ways to motivate different types of people,” he says. “When people are happy and motivated, they do amazing things.”

Without difference, success would be tough — an organization staffed with only leaders can’t succeed any more than a band could play a rockin’ halftime show with only flutists. Hancock says the unique contributions students bring to the classroom or the field defines the group experience.

“Maybe there is a student who is not a complete master at marching or music, but has a way of keeping things light in rehearsal,” he says. “You need to recognize that and make him or her feel valued for their contribution.”

The circle of life — band life

Hancock joined drumline in the Round-Up Band when he was in Grade 7 and transitioned to the Stampede Showband when he was 16. At the tender age of 21, Showband members age out — a necessary but sometimes unwelcome part of the experience.

“People need to move on so they can begin the next chapter in their lives, and make room for the next group of young people,” says Hancock. “It’s kind of like the circle of life.”

The only way around it is to return as a teacher, and that’s just what Hancock did.

“The people who stick around are the people who want to find a way to give back,” he says, adding that three of his original Round-Up bandmates from junior high are now his professional colleagues.

Ryan Hancock in his previous role with the Calgary Stampede as assistant director of bands.

Ryan Hancock in his previous role with the Calgary Stampede as assistant director of bands.

Calgary Stampede

Life happens when you’re making other plans

When he began his bachelor’s degree, Hancock figured that by now he’d have subbed for a couple of months and nailed down a permanent teaching gig for the fall. But halfway through his degree Hancock, somewhat reluctantly, became manager of bands with the Calgary Stampede.

“I would have been surprised if you told me five years ago that this is where I’d be,” says Hancock. “I wasn’t interested at first because I knew how difficult it is, but then I thought about the positive effect I could have on all these individuals.”

Hancock’s current role doesn’t work directly with the band members — instead he ensures that everyone has the tools they need to be successful. “Staff and students put those tools to use and do great things,” he says.  

The music shapes you

During the last year, Hancock has been a full-time student and a full-time manager. Now he heads into the busy Stampede season as a successful graduate and — as if that wasn’t enough — a newlywed. It seems the skill of multitasking must be woven directly into Hancock’s DNA, but he says he owes at least some of it to coming up in bands.

The band season begins in September but long before the thrill of performance time during the Stampede, there’s a long rehearsal period — a long, character-building stretch of continuous effort.

“Students learn that not everything is instant gratification,” says Hancock. “They give a lot of time while they are juggling a lot of other commitments and it takes a lot of hard work.”

Good thing the payoff is incredible — countless performances at countless locations, near and far. All that travel can breed a lifelong wanderlust. Hancock and his wife — also band alumni — share a passion for travel and even got engaged in Iceland.

Hancock is, in small part, a product of years spent with Calgary Stampede bands, and he is one of thousands. The Stampede Showband was created in 1971. Today, its more than 150 musicians, colourguard and dancers perform in more than 200 appearances each year.

The 2017 Stampede Showband plays in front of the  Scotiabank Saddledome — just one of approximately 200 shows they play during the regular season.

The 2017 Stampede Showband plays in front of the Scotiabank Saddledome — just one of 200 shows.

Calgary Stampede