Of all the things I’ve written in this blog, I can sincerely say that, if I had to choose, this post (and one about Allison Wetherbee) are really the only shared thoughts I really want you to read. I’ve been holding back the temptation to write about this. But, just this moment, I couldn’t hold back anymore.
A great man passed away on September 25, 2008. Tommy Goff.
I could say, he was my high school band director. But, that really doesn’t even begin to tell the story.
His passing has caused me to do something I don’t normally do. In fact, the last time I’ve done this was when my father passed away a year ago last July. Before that, it was my brother’s passing in June of 1982. I cried. I’ve actually found tears coming a couple of times. He changed my life. I miss Tommy Goff. My brother Bill called the other day. He was in the band, too. I could tell by his voice that the passing of Mr. Goff is a very emotional event. I understand.
This is a man who really has no equal in music education. A member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame right alongside people like W. C. Handy and Nat King Cole. Seriously. Tommy Goff is their equal.
Oh, he never achieved mass national and international fame, sure. But, he is – in the lives of the students he took care of, nurtured, encouraged – a giant. His presence still looms large. We find ourselves thinking of him as we go through life. His bands always excelled. There is no equal in winners of superior rankings at state contetests, to be sure. And, that wasn’t just his bands, but his individual players, too. Tommy Goff made winners. The winning didn’t stop in high school, either. So many of his students have gone on to great achievements. They so often point back to Tommy Goff. Cool, isn’t it.
Mary Belk recently wrote about Tommy Goff. Mary is Tommy’s sister-in-law, sister to Jane, Tommy’s wonderful wife. Mary was actually my babysitter when I was a kid. She joined me for dinner recently as we took my mother out for her birthday. Mary was one of Tommy’s first students.
Jennifer Ryan even shared that her father went to school with Tommy Goff. See? It is a small world. From Twitter, “JenniferRyan: @rdfrench Talked to my Dad about Tommy Goff. He recounted a story about when they went on a double date together.”
I shared the following in the guest book at the Opelika-Auburn News. Look at all the other comments. You can tell. This man was such a strong influence in so many people’s lives.
There is a wonderful recounting of Mr. Goff’s life at The Caring Bridge and you’ll also be able to read many more memories from former students in their guest book, too. Just type in “tommygoff” where it says “Visit a CaringBridge website” in the little box that says ” – Enter Website Name – “. Click the “My Story”, “Guestbook” and “Journal” links to see more wonderful memories.
Mr. Goff influenced so many people, changed so many lives and always in a positive way. All of us fortunate enough to have been a student of his at Auburn High School have been forever changed for the better.
He pushed us and he pulled us … always toward a positive goal. The music, the friendships, the memories and so much more were all made possible by his leadership.
For me, being in Tommy Goff’s band was a life changing experience for which I will always be grateful. I’ve thought of him often since high school, and I’ll never forget him.
This is a man who, like Jane (his recently departed wife), will live on in many people and their children … their children’s children, and on. They both had that much positive impact on people’s lives.
Tommy Goff was, is and always will be a true giant.
Here is Tommy King Goff’s obituary from the O-A News.
Below is a recording of just one song from one of his band’s. This is Emperata Overture. A fitting selection as it sounds like the celebration that was Mr. Goff’s life. Hard to believe we played that over 30 years ago. It seems like yesterday. At times, I wish it was. Such were the wonderful fun times in Tommy Goff’s band. Funny, he actually made being a band geek cool. Truer than you may know. Find more music at the Auburn High bands Web site.
Here’s an excerpt from the Auburn High Bands page. It reflects the truly remarkable record that Mr. Goff, for the most part, made happen for thousands of students over the years.
The Auburn High School Band has made a name for itself over the past 68 years, amassing an overall all-judges concert record of 340-4-0-0-0 in winning literally hundreds of state and national competitions. The Bands have placed nearly 800 students in All-State Bands, members have received over 1000 first division solo and ensemble ratings in the past decade alone, and members have performed with national honor bands five out of the past eight years. Besides being one of only 49 bands worldwide to have ever received the Sudler Flag, the Band is one of only 64 listed on the Historic Roll of Honor of Distinguished High School Concert Bands in America, as a concert band of “historical importance and influence to the nation’s high school concert band programs.”
You remember Mr. Holland’s Opus? So many of us, when we saw that movie, we said, “That’s Tommy Goff!” Truly, so much of it was, too.
There is a lesson in all of this. Well, many lessons, actually. But the one that comes strongest to mind is this: let’s not forget those teachers from our past. You know, high school, elementary school, even kindergarten and nursery school. They have a remarkable impact on our lives. And, don’t do what I did. Go back. Say thank you. Oh, I’ve seen Mr. Goff several times in the years since high school, but I never *really* shared just how important he was to me. I wish I had. Tommy Goff is forever with me and so many others.