Economic recruiter ready for pops duet

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 27, 2011

By Joanie Morris
For the Salisbury Post
Robert Van Geons has a secret.
The economic development director has been harboring this secret for years.
He sings. He sings loud and he sings proud.
Not too many people realize that Van Geons is a performer at heart. In the past 10 years, they’ve only seen the “all business” side of Van Geons – who brings jobs and opportunity to Rowan County.
Van Geons will reintroduce Rowan County residents to his resounding tenor at the Pops at the Post next Saturday, when he performs a duet with his wife, Tara.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been onstage,” admits Van Geons.
Before he became the head of Rowan Works, before he started out in the business world, he was making joyful noise in the theater department at Catawba College, and onstage at Piedmont Players performances.
“As a young man when looking at colleges, one thing that I had was equal dreams,” says Van Geons. “One was a life in music theater and the other, a life revolved around government and politics. That’s one of the things that attracted me to Catawba.”
Van Geons, originally from Connecticut, even met his wife on the stage.
She about knocked him over — literally and figuratively. The two met at a talent review as teens.
“We went back to that original stage and I proposed there,” Van Geons said.
He says that people he knew at Catawba and earlier are just as surprised to hear what he does now as people who know him only through his job in the business world are to hear what he used to do.
“Economic development doesn’t allow for that other side,” he says.
“It has gotten out a little bit in professional circles. I have gotten dragged into karaoke,” he admits. “It’s really interesting when old friends and new friends cross here in Rowan County. The people that knew me then and the people that know me now.”
Lately though, his musical talents have been reserved for his 8-month-old daughter Lola. “I’ve been playing picking up the guitar and singing along to my little girl more than anything the past couple of years.”
Lola will see her mom and dad perform for the first time together on Saturday as they perform “You’re Just in Love,” an Irving Berlin song.
“It’s rather clever,” says Salisbury Symphony Maestro David Hagy, who first approached Van Geons about doing the duet a few weeks ago. “It’s one of Irving Berlin’s counterpoint songs; one person sings one whole verse that you think is the song, and another person sings something that sounds very different that’s on the same subject and finally they both work together.”
Hagy first worked with Van Geons when he was a student at Catawba.
“He was (singing) long before he did anything he’s been written about in the paper now,” adds Hagy.
Hagy tries to incorporate as much community as possible into the Pops concert, featuring singers from Salisbury and Rowan County. “I really want to showcase the county’s talent with this concert.”
The song is absolutely Robert and Tara’s personality, Hagy says.
“I wanted not only a duet that fit their voices but also a duet that fit their actual personalities rather than trying to cast them into something. I thought this would be best to do that.”
Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz was surprised when she learned Van Geons sings.
“I am not sure I knew he could sing,” says Kluttz. “I knew his wife had performed with Piedmont Players. I really have known him solely as the economic development director.”
Kluttz adds that Van Geons has done an excellent job in his role with Rowan Works, so she has no doubts he’ll do a great job on Saturday as well.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea to bring people who are important to the community and make them a part of this,” says Kluttz. “It really makes it a community-oriented event.”
Joanie Morris is a freelance writer for the Salisbury Post. She can be reached at 704-797-4248 or