A life in music

There’s more than one way to perform in the Red Deer Royals marching band. Shaun Russenholt, 18, of St. Albert, plays his flute while his father Neil Russenholt pushes him in a wheelchair.

Shaun Russenholt

Shaun Russenholt

There’s more than one way to perform in the Red Deer Royals marching band.

Shaun Russenholt, 18, of St. Albert, plays his flute while his father Neil Russenholt pushes him in a wheelchair.

Russenholt, who has a moderate form of cerebral palsy, joined the Royals last year after performing with Edmonton Sabers Marching Band for children and young teens.

His mother, Carla Brown, can’t imagine what her son’s life would have been like without music.

“Because of all of his language delays it probably would have hindered him from becoming more involved in the community. Because he can play, he’s been in orchestras and bands, gone on music field trips. Wherever the band goes, he goes,” said Brown about her son who is also a member of his school band at Belle Rose Composite High School in St. Albert.

She said the discipline needed for practice has also helped him excel.

It all started when he picked up a recorder in elementary school. He started playing the violin in Grade 6 and went on to the flute in Grade 7.

Russenholt auditioned for the Royals last summer and Brown said the talented band helps Shaun to excel.

“He learns music mostly by ear because he has perfect pitch. When the band plays well, Shaun plays better.”

“The whole organization is wonderful. It’s a really good band.”

The Royals have 18 flute players in its 110-member band. Thanks to auditions held last week, the band will probably grow to 125 members in September and Russenholt is the only handicapped musician.

“We try to include people with all kinds of abilities in the band,” said band director Rob Goring.

He called Russenholt an accomplished flautist.

“He’s a great player, a great kid and we’re really happy to have him as part of the band.”

The Royals’ next march will be in the Canmore Parade on July 1.

Brown said her son always did like parades and so far has performed in about five this year. He’s really looking forward to participating in the popular Calgary Stampede Parade, which he has never seen.

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