Western Mustang Band
|Western Mustang Band|
|School||The University of Western Ontario|
|Location||London, Ontario Canada|
The Western Mustang Band (WMB) is the marching band for the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. Its legacy began in 1938 with music faculty alumnus Don Wright (for whom the faculty is now named) and has evolved since then into the band of today.
The Western Mustang Band is a unique asset to the University. There are only two other university-level marching bands in Canada, the Queen's Bands of Queen's University, and the McMaster Marching Band. These bands often meet head-to-head every football season, and at the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.
The Western Mustang Band plays at every home football game at TD Waterhouse Stadium providing musical interlude between plays, playing half-time and pre-game shows, as well as leading the crowd in Western, the school song, when the Mustangs score. The band also provides music at many basketball and hockey games. During Homecoming, the WMB leads the Homecoming Parade through the streets of London returning to Western for the Homecoming football game.
Other band activities include a variety of Santa Claus parades, orientation week activities, and social events for the University and the community at large.
- 1 History
- 2 Uniform
- 3 Music
- 4 Composition
- 5 Notable Events, Achievements and Awards
- 6 References
U.W.O. Band and Early Formation
The formation of the Western Mustang Band, started off as a smaller band in the mid 1920s. Known as the U.W.O. band, this group formed in 1926 under the direction of Paul McKibben, the dean of the medical school. This small ensemble played at the football games and travelled with the football team, performing at away games as well. At this point in time, the group consisted of a few dozen musicians. Marching band performances at football or any athletic games was still in its infancy at this time, but as time went on, people started to expect the band at games. It started to become an integral part of any football game.
In 1929, the band became “permanent[ly] and officially established”, as reported in the Gazette. The band played at the opening ceremonies of the newly constructed J.W. Little Memorial Stadium, with 30 members performing.
Don Wright’s Involvement
Don Wright became involved in the band, playing trumpet while getting his undergraduate degree in the early 1930s. In his last year of his undergraduate degree, he became bandleader in 1933. After he finished his degree however, he was asked in 1935 to come back and direct the band again.
While under his direction, the band started to shape up into a proper marching band. Wright introduced rehearsal times “Once a week – Thursdays 4:30PM till dark, rain or shine.” Wright also arranged all the music for the band, tailoring the music properly to the instrumentation of the band.
Under Wright’s direction, the band started to innovate and evolve. Three Herald Trumpets were added to the band, giving a very dramatic effect to the sound. These trumpets, with big “U.W.O.” letters on their bells, would often do fanfares to announce the entry of the band into the stadium as well as add flourishments to songs, which would add excitement to any game. Wright included full band instrumentation. Flutes, clarinets, saxophones, as well as all brass along with snare drums and a bass drum were part of the band’s sound. He also allowed a girl to take on the drum major role, which was unheard of at the time as well as using two male baton twirlers to the majorette/colour party. When all majorettes were girls and all drum majors were guys, this change in gender roles allowed for a better evolution of the band.
Also under Wright’s direction, the band started to play jazz at football games, something unheard of at the time. These short arrangements of popular jazz numbers attracted crowds and usually brought them to their feet in excitement. Traditionally, marching bands would only play marches and other classical pieces, so bringing in jazz, popular style at the time, onto the football field led to a resounding success for the band in the mid to late 1930’s.
In 1936, the University Student Council at Western put on a drive for funds to support the purchase of new uniforms. At this point, the U.W.O. Band became the Western Mustang Band. They first performed as this newly formed band while in their brand new uniforms in the fall of 1937, under the direction of Don Wright as bandmaster and founding director.
Western Mustang Band
1940s and WWII
During the Second World War, the band took shape under the Canadian Officers in Training Corps and reflected regimental-style of military band. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that the band changed its style, and started to branch forward into doing more field drill routines with popular, well-known songs at the time.
In the 1950s, the band started to open up to both Western and non-Western students. This was done to help increase the size of the band and it proved to be effective for the first half of the decade. As the University grew in size however, there became an increase in Western students involvement in the band and the amount of members coming from outside of the university was gradually phased out in the later part of the 1950s.
1953 was the first year the band acquired a female band member, Jane Perkins. Perkins joined the band on trumpet. Up until this point, the only female members in the band were majorettes or colour party members. Popularity grew amongst both genders and in 1957, it was regarded that the band had an entire row of girls. Most marching bands at the time were predominantly all male, so incorporating both genders equally in the band, helped set it apart from others.
Marvin Kwitko was the bandmaster for three years from 1954-1956, while doing his undergraduate arts degree. He did a number of arrangements for the band, and introduced popular songs in the band. Much like how Don Wright introduced jazz into the band, Kwitko started playing 1950’s pop tunes and played less of the COTC-style of marches. The band kept strong at 45 members under Kwitko’s direction.
In 1959, Ron Brown became bandmaster. Some may call this period of the band the “golden era”, as Brown brought the band to very high success. Under Brown’s direction, he instituted daily practice. This ensured the top performance of the band. Brown was the band director through the mid 1960s, and kept the band an incredible size of 65-80 members. In Bob Gage’s “Mustang Tales”, he recounts:
In a story on the Western band in 1961, the London Free Press reported “Snappy drills, up-to-date routines, plus good music go to make excellent pre-game and half-time entertainment by the 85-member band, which continues to draw raves by fans from London to Montreal.”.
The band at this time came to draw crowds from all over.
During the late 1960s, the membership of the band started to decline. Brown had left as director in 1968, and university marching bands across Canada started to become less popular. At this point, the band dwindled to around 22 members.
In 1970, a reconstruction of the band’s image was done to popularize it once again. This included things like a newer, more casual style of uniform and an update on music the band was playing. This reconstruction got the band membership numbers back up to around 45 members in 1971. During this year, the band flew to Halifax to support the football team, where they were competing at the National Football Championship. The band stayed steady with the updated image into the 1970s, and even in 1974, the band had 64 members in total.
In 1975 the band changed its name to the Mustang Marching Band. This name stuck with the organization until 2002, when it was changed back to its former Western Mustang Band.
1980s to Present Day
The band continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s. During this time, the band fell under some criticism due to the lack of involvement with Western functions. A revival and reshape of the band image came in the early 2000s, with the onset of some new instruments and newer uniforms.
The uniform of the Western Mustang Band remains part of the iconic image of the band throughout Canada. It has taken on many forms throughout the years.
1920s to 1937
Uniforms in the early days consisted of a blazer with an embroidered UWO Band logo on the breast pocket and a sailor hat. This style of uniform existed from 1928 to 1929, until the uniform became army khaki, then “walking-out blues”. This change in uniform was due to the direction the band went following under the COTC (Canadian Officers in Training Corps). Ross Willis, bandmaster at the time, initiated this uniform and it stuck as the primary uniform until 1937 when the iconic uniforms were purchased.
1937 to 1970
The uniform from the 1937 up until 1970 mostly stayed at the same design. Band members and majorettes/colour party members had similar uniforms, but inverted colours.
The typical 1930’s band members’ uniform consisted of:
- A purple shako with a white ‘W’ in the middle
- A cloth purple tunic top, with white accents
- A purple cape
- White pants with a purple stripe down the side
- Black shoes (later to white shoes)
1970s through 1980s
By the 1970s this uniform, although iconic to the band, was very outdated. A new uniform was introduced with the revival of the band.
The typical 1970s band members’ uniform consisted of:
The mid 1980s saw a change again with the addition of the windbreaker top with an embroidered turtleneck shirt instead of the wool sweater. The rest of the uniform reflected the previous one from the 1970s, including shoes and cowboy hats.
The uniform changed again in the 1990s, and reflected a much more leisure organization. The dress became increasingly casual, when compared to the 1930s.
The typical 1990’s band members’ uniform consisted of:
- A purple baseball cap
- A white and purple striped rugby style shirt
- White undershirt
- White pants with a purple stripe down the side
- White shoes
Keeping with the casual nature of the band dress, the 2000s brought forward the same pants and shoes, but with visors for headwear and K-Way windbreakers for tunic tops.
The current uniform was introduced in 2007. This new uniform takes on a more professional appearance than the more casual uniforms of previous decades, and emulates current marching band uniforms across North America.
The current uniform consists of:
- A white shako
- A white and purple tunic top with UWO embroidery
- White pants with a purple stripe down the side
- White shoes
- White gloves
Walter J. Smither (class of ’32 and ’35) wrote the school song, known as “Western” with lyrics written by Margaret Ovens (class of ’29). The melody was originally rejected as a school song while Smither was at Beck Collegiate, but in 1928, the song was resurrected to become the official school song of UWO, with the help of Ovens as the lyricist. A piano and voice part was arranged first, and a band arrangement came shortly after by Don Wright in 1936. The current arrangement reflects the one Brad Masters, a former Mustang Band director, did in 1981.
While the first half of the song was written for the school specifically, the last half of the Western school song, known as the “Western Marching Song”, reflects a similar well-known school song, “Washington and Lee Swing” which is very commonly used in other school fight songs. This is then followed by the Western school cheer, "Caninny".
The "Canninny" cheer is a staple of Western spirit cheers and has been used by Western since the early 1920s, originating from early football games. Often accompanied by the band, traditionally the cheer goes as followed:
Ca-ninny, ca-ninny, ca-ninny canoe,
With a hull-a-ba, hull-a-ba, hull-a-bal-oo,
With a riccaty, raccity, raccity, ru,
Hiup, Skyup, Western U!
Western, Western, Western!
Men of Western U
The Western victory song, known as “Men of Western U” was written in 1955 by Marvin Kwitko, a former bandmaster and meds student. This small piece was debuted for a four-part men’s choir, but then Kwitko arranged the piece for the band shortly after. The piece consists of a small intro, followed by a chorus with lyrics written by Kwitko, then a chant where each university faculty has their own part, and finally a repeat of the chorus. The piece has not gotten much use in recent years by the band.
The Western Mustang Band Street Beat was composed and arranged for the marching band by a former percussion director, Lee Buckley. The Street Beat consists of a drum cadence used when the band is marching. Halfway through the cadence, the band shouts "Western Let's Go!", which is then followed by specific dancing actions from the band members. The cadence is an integral part of the bands traditions.
The band currently consists of around 65 members spanning all faculties at the University of Western Ontario main campus as well as the affiliated colleges. The instruments used reflect that of most full modern marching bands.
- Alto Saxophone
- Tenor Saxophone
- Baritone Saxophone
- F Horn
- Snare Drum
- Bass Drum
- Tenor Drums
Since very early on, the band has always had a drum major as the leader of the band through drill. This position directs the band in motion and movement, as well as conduct the band. Historically, the drum major would use a whistle to cue the band. In current years however, the drum major will carry a mace and gesture with it to indicate different signals such as the start of a new song, starting to march forward, or halting the band completely.
The band has a developed music director which works on the musicality of different pieces the band plays. The music director will conduct the band at practices as well as choose music for the band to play at events. The role of the director is to ensure that the band is sounding the best.
The band is composed of an executive board which is tasked with the logistics of the day-to-day operations of the band as well as securing future opportunities and functions for the band to participate in. This executive board is made entirely of band members.
Notable Events, Achievements and Awards
- University of Western Ontario Homecoming
- Toronto Santa Claus Parade
- Burlington Santa Claus Parade
- London Santa Claus Parade
- London Pride Parade
- Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade
- Raptors' Half-Time Show (2005, 2006, and 2010)
- London Knights home playoff games (2009)
- NHL Exhibition Game (2007 and 2008)
- Grey Cup Parade (1988)
- Can-Am Bowl Halftime Show in Tampa, Florida (1978)
- Played both pre-game and half-time shows at the first "College Bowl" (later Vanier Cup) in Toronto (1964)
- Grey Cup Parade (the "fog bowl" game) (1963)
Media Events and Performances
- Toronto Fashion Week, Greta Constantine runway performance (2016)
- MuchMusic Video Awards Red Carpet (2009)
- On stage with Let's Go To War at the Virgin Festival in Toronto (2008)
- On the set of Are You Smarter Than a Canadian 5th Grader? (2007)
- Something Big by Shawn Mendes (2014)
- Amadeus by JoJo Worthington (2014)
- The Bells by Lowell (2014)
- Western USC: Best General Member Involvement (2015)
- Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade: Best College or University Unit (2014)
- Montréal St. Patrick's Day Parade: Best Out-Of-Town (2008)
- Montréal St. Patrick's Day Parade: Best Band (2006)
- Lucan Santa Claus Parade: 1st Place Non-Profit Entry (1997)
- Norwich Santa Claus Parade: Best Marching Band (1996)
- Norwich Santa Claus Parade: Best Band (1995)
- Bradford Santa Claus Parade: 1st Place Band (1993)
- "Western Mustang Band - Constitution". Western Mustang Band. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Gage, Bob. Mustang Tales. p. 139.
- Wright, Don. Fifty Years with Don Wright. Vol 3. University of Western Ontario.
- "Occidentalia. -- 1954". archive.org. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
- "Occidentalia. -- 1955". archive.org. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
- "Occidentalia. -- 1960". archive.org. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
- "Occidentalia. -- 1934". archive.org. Retrieved 2015-11-18.