Western Mustang Band

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Western Mustang Band
SchoolThe University of Western Ontario
LocationLondon, Ontario Canada
DirectorQuinn Fleming
Fight song"Western"

The Western Mustang Band (WMB) is the marching band for the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. The band performs at every home football game for the Western Mustangs at TD Waterhouse Stadium in the fall term as well as other athletic events such as basketball and volleyball games throughout the year. Its nickname is "The Pride of Western".

The band today comprises brass, percussion, and woodwind instruments played by students from every faculty on campus, and is led by a colour guard and drum major.

Other band activities include a variety of Santa Claus parades, Orientation week activities, and social events for the University and the community at large.


U.W.O. Band and early formation[edit]

In the fall of 1923, a very small band was formed under the direction of Sidney Kingsmill.[1] Kingsmill was very active on the Western campus and was in a number of musical organizations like the Glee Club and the Arts '25 Orchestra. He was known at the time for being an arranger and composer, and before a Western rugby game, he gathered up a small band (known as the "University Band") to join in the parades down to the stadium.

After a couple of accounts of the band in some Western Gazette articles from October 1923, the band stopped appearing in the newspaper and presumably football games as well.[1] Kingsmill was a key part of the band and after his graduation, the band did not have enough support and resources to continue. It was not until 1926, which the band restarted under the direction of Bruce Wiley.

Known as the "Student Band", this new band got started in the fall of 1926.[2] The objectives were the same as the band Kingsmill once started; play music at the football games and promote school spirit. This band was far more organized and keen. The dean of medicine at the time, Paul McKibben played a key role in organizing this new band and with the help of Col. Brown and Col. Ross, the band got some funding through a grant, some practice space for drill, and much needed advice from the Arena Band, another marching band at this time.[2]

The first real major change for the band was when the Canadian Officer Training Corps (COTC) got involved in 1929. Up until this point, the band had had issues with a lot of things including finances, instruments, gathering a music collection, rehearsal facilities and consistent turnout for practices. With the COTC as the organization in charge, the band quickly went from a student-run, club to a full-fledged group. Under COTC rules, the band would dress same as the military unit, with the khaki-coloured tunic and pants and a brimmed cap.[3]

The band continued moving forward in a steady direction throughout the early 1930s. High praise came from all over the university. Many people thought the band presence at the football games was very beneficial to help boost morale and game spirits,[4] and it was at this point that arguments were starting to be made of whether having a band based in military roots was an appropriate feature. Some argued that the band looked too out of place, being dressed in full military uniforms and wanted to have more spirited wear, but others suggested that it is better to have a band there than no band at all.[5]

Don Wright's involvement[edit]

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.[6]

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.[6]

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.[6] 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 1930s.

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, which stepped out onto the football field as a fully functioning spirited group on October 2, 1937,[7] during the Western Mustangs v. Sarnia Imperials football game.[8] This new band was organized under the USC and had Bandmaster Don Wright as its leader, with a "co-ed" Beth Forbes as the drum major.[9]

Western Mustang Band[edit]

1940s and WWII[edit]

The band ceased operations in the fall of 1940 due to the war. All extra-curriculars at this time were not being allowed, as ordered from the administration.[10] At this time, Don Wright left the band and the uniforms and instruments were packed up and put on the shelves. Nobody knew how long the war would last and the administration felt it not appropriate to continue any extra-curricular activities, sporting events and even dances.

Now, although the USC-organized Western Band was out of commission, the COTC still had a band in operation. The two bands were both operating and co-existing out of the Western campus since the inception of both organizations. It was during the war that the COTC band became the only band on campus now. It is worth noting though, that this COTC band was not like its former group. The band was not as talented and organized as it had been years prior. Lack of leadership and leadership is the probable cause of this.

The band was sparse at this time, appearing only in official COTC events and during training camps. It was in 1944 that a majority of the grants devoted to the COTC band were cut, as attitudes towards having a band changed.[11] The COTC band continued operation in 1945, 1946 and 1947 but it was after 1947 that the COTC band ceased operation forever.

After the war however, the Western Band went back into full effect. The band stepped out onto the field for the first football game of the 1945 season.


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 number of members coming from outside of the university was gradually phased out in the later part of the 1950s.[9]

1953 was the first year the band acquired a female band member, Jane Perkins.[12] 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.[13] Most marching bands at the time were predominantly all male,[14] so incorporating both genders equally in the band, helped set it apart from others.

Marvin Kwitko took over as bandmaster in the 1954 season, and with that he brought on some musical changes. Kwitko was an avid composer and arranger, and much like Don Wright, Kwitko arranged the music the band played.[15] The band at this point had its full capacity at 45 musicians. Under Kwitko's direction, practices were scheduled four times a week.

After Kwitko left the group in spring of 1956, Brien MacDonald picked up the baton for the 1956 football season. This was the year the band got new uniforms, which were to replace the old uniforms. Up until 1956, the band had been using the 45 or so uniforms originally purchased by the USC in 1937.[15] These new uniforms, although almost identical to the original design, were updated and made of newer fabric and included embellishments like shoulder epaulets with tassels. Although the band would have purchased some new uniforms for most musicians, the uniform for other band members would have been a combination of old and new uniform pieces due to lack of funding to purchase an entire new uniform set. These new uniforms were purchased with the help of the Purple Spur Society and the Alumni Association, who contributed funds to help offset total costs.[16]


In 1959, Ron Brown became bandmaster. Referred to as the "golden era", Brown brought the band to very high success.[17] Under Brown's direction, he instituted daily practice. This ensured the top performance of the band. The band stayed strong at the maximum member count of 45 men.[18]

Under a decision by Brown and West, women were not included as marching musicians anymore and were strictly allowed in the majorette section. This idea did not change for the entirety that Brown was bandmaster.[19]

Brown was the band director through the mid 1960s, and kept the band growing to an incredible size of 65-80 members.[20] 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 halftime entertainment by the 85-member band, which continues to draw raves by fans from London to Montreal.".[9]

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.[21]


The resurrection of the band came from the USC in the summer of 1970. The USC president saw great potential in the marching band as a perfect extra-curricular for students. Through the Board of Governors, the USC was given $6,000.00 to spend on new uniforms.[22] Much like the very start of the band, the new funding for uniforms revived the group to become spirit ambassadors for the school. These new uniforms were modelled after the UWO cheerleading uniforms at this time. Purple sweaters with as Western crest, white Stetson hats, white pants and white shoes became the new look for the band to help save on costs, as formal marching band uniforms and tunics are very costly when trying to outfit an entire group at the same time.[22] A constitution was drafted to outline what the new band and executive would look like. Strict, daily practice with 80% of the practices required for members was set as a precedent, as well as a co-ed membership base was firmly established.

This rejuvenated group marched out to the first home football game in October 1970, although the band had been practicing before then. At this time, practice on the University College hill with lines drawn on the grass to help facilitate drill movements. With the help of the USC, this new band was heading in the right direction and moving back to its former glory.

Membership numbers were 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.[23] The band stayed steady with the updated image into the 1970s, and even in 1974, the band had 64 members in total.

1980s to present day[edit]

There was a brief resurgence under the leadership of Brad Masters, brought on as director in 1981. Masters secured funding from various organizations, allowing for the purchase of new instruments and uniforms. By the mid-1980s, membership again dwindled, and a series of articles criticizing the band's unprofessional atmosphere began appearing in the Western Gazette. The band languished throughout this era, and would not regain their professional form until the mid-2000s, with the onset of some new instruments and newer uniforms.

The band received full, professional uniforms in 2007. The annual Toronto and London Santa Claus Parades continued to be a part of the band activities every year, as well as the Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade which was added in 2005.

More activities outside of the traditional marching band circle garnered attention to the band, starting in 2007. The band participated at the request of Marianas Trench in the 2007 MMVA's for their red-carpet entrance.[24] The following year, the band performed with Let's Go to War at the 2008 Virgin Mobile Music Festival in Toronto.[25] This performance mixed both electronic and more traditional genres by utilizing the band instrumentation alongside a DJ.

In recent years, the band has been in Shawn Mendes' 2014 music video for Something Big,[26][27] performed at the finale of the 2016 Toronto Fashion Week for Greta Constantine playing an arrangement of "Happy" by Pharrell Williams.[28][29][30]

The band left its involvement under the USC in 2015 and, after 78 years, became part of a new organization group as part of the Athletics Department, under the umbrella of Western Student Experience.

Band names[edit]

In 1937 The band officially got its name, known as "The University of Western Ontario Mustang Band", which usually got shortened to "Mustang Band" or "Western Mustang Band". Prior to this official name establishment, names such as "University Band", "UWO band" or "Western Band" were used interchangeably to describe the band, something that still happens today.

In 1962 the band was renamed to the "Mustang Marching Band". This new name became the official title of the band, but as before, the terms "Mustang Band", "University Band", and "Western Band" all came to mean the same group when talked about in casual correspondences. This name stuck until 2002, when the official name was changed back to "Western Mustang Band". The addition of "Western Marching Band" to be used as a secondary name was introduced in the 2014.


Western Song[edit]

Walter J. Smither (class of '32 and '35) wrote the school song known as Western, with lyrics written by Margaret Ovens (class of '29).[31] The melody was originally rejected as a school song while Smither was at Beck Collegiate, but in 1930,[32] 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 1933.[6]

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 Song of Victory, 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.


This 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 follows:

Ca-ninny, ca-nanny, ca-nanny, canoe,
With a hull-a-ba, hull-a-ba, hull-a-bal-oo,
With a riccaty, raccity, raccity, ru,
High up, Sky up, Western U!,
Western, Western, Western!

Men of Western U[edit]

The Western victory song, known as Men of Western U was written in 1955 by Marvin Kwitko, a former bandmaster and meds student.[33] 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.

Street Beat[edit]

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 band's 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 college-level marching bands.


  • Piccolo
  • Flute
  • Clarinet
  • Alto Saxophone
  • Tenor Saxophone
  • Baritone Saxophone


  • B♭Trumpet
  • F Horn
  • Mellophone
  • Trombone
  • Baritone
  • Sousaphone


  • Snare Drum
  • Bass Drum
  • Tenor Drums
  • Cymbals
  • Marching Bells

Drum major[edit]

Since the band's inception, it has 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. The drum major of the Western Mustang Band uses modern college marching band techniques of vocal, whistle,[19] and baton/mace commands to instruct the band.

Student leadership[edit]

The band is composed of a student leadership team 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. The team is made entirely of band members, and is overseen by the director as well as the Western Athletics Department.[34]


The band has relied on funding from the University Students' Council (USC) since its formation in 1937 when the original uniforms were purchased. Throughout the years of the existence of the band, there has always been discussion on how much funding the band is to receive. From the early years of the band through to the 1960s, the band would receive an annual budgeted set of money from the USC. At this time, the band was not considered to be a separate club, but rather a part of the USC directly.

In the early 1970s, the USC went through major structure changes. There were more clubs and other school organizations forming on campus and diverting funds directly to the band, away from these other groups was not a popular opinion. The band at this point became what was called an "Accredited Group", meaning that they did receive more special treatment than other clubs in the USC, but were not entitled to mandatory budget funding.

In 2011, the USC noted that any accredited groups were not covered under their insurance policy. At this time, the USC got rid of the accredited groups and the band joined the USC clubs system instead. As a club in this system however, the band became financially uncertain and funding was not always guaranteed through club grants.

In 2015, the band held a successful student referendum securing a steady cash flow of 50 cents from the ancillary fees of every part-time and full-time student.[35] That same year, the band received a $26,000 donation from the Alumni Association's Legacy Committee primarily for new uniforms.[36] The uniforms were introduced in 2017.

In addition to external funding, band members also pay yearly fees to help offset costs of instrument repairs, uniform cleanings and repairs, busses for events, staff, new music, shoes and other clothing, and any equipment or field rentals.

Notable events, achievements and awards[edit]

Annual events[edit]

Athletic events[edit]

  • Raptors' Halftime 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 halftime shows at the first "College Bowl" (later Vanier Cup) in Toronto (1964)
  • Grey Cup Parade (the "fog bowl" game) (1963)

Media events and performances[edit]

Music videos[edit]


  • 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)


  1. ^ a b "Rooters' Parade Is Big Success", Western U Gazette, October 19, 1923, 1.
  2. ^ a b "Band Acknowledges Aid And Co-operation", Western U Gazette, November 26, 1926, 5.
  3. ^ "U.W.O. To Have Own Band Music", Western U Gazette, October 18, 1929, 1.
  4. ^ "COTC", Western Gazette, October 20, 1932, 3.
  5. ^ Editorial, Western Gazette, November 1, 1932, 3.
  6. ^ a b c d Wright, Don. Fifty Years with Don Wright. Vol 3. University of Western Ontario.
  7. ^ "Western 'U' Band Makes a Decided Hit". London Free Press. October 4, 1937.
  8. ^ "Purple and White Garb is Put Away", London Free Press, November 9, 1937.
  9. ^ a b c Gage, Bob. Mustang Tales. p. 139.
  10. ^ "Extra-curricular", Western Gazette, October 4th, 1940, 2.
  11. ^ Hartley Thomas, U.W.O. Contingent C.O.T.C. 262.
  12. ^ Photo, London Free Press, October 17, 1953.
  13. ^ "Occidentalia. -- 1954". archive.org. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  14. ^ Torontonensis 1958. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto, Students' Administrative Council. 1958. p. 95.
  15. ^ a b "Lots of People are Found Playing in Mustang Band", Western Gazette, October 29, 1954, 8.
  16. ^ "Student Handbook",1956-1957, Book. From Western Archives.
  17. ^ "UWO Band Is Chosen Best in Santa Parade". London Free Press. November 27, 1961.
  18. ^ "Seventy-Six Trombones and all That", Western Gazette, September 26, 1958, 1.
  19. ^ a b "Gridiron Music-Makers", London Free Press, November 10, 1962.
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  21. ^ "Band broke", Western Gazette, October 25, 1968, 7.
  22. ^ a b "The USC-Past Four Months", Western Gazette, September 11, 1970, 17.
  23. ^ "Band, cheerleaders fly to bowl game", Western Gazette, November 12, 1971, 1.
  24. ^ "Western Mustang Band on the MMVA Red Carpet with Marianas Trench". YouTube. June 17, 2007.
  25. ^ BPM:TV presents the Western Mustang Band's live performance at the Virgin Mobile Music Festival (Television production). bpm:tv. Jan 22, 2012.
  26. ^ ShawnMendesVEVO (2014-11-11), Shawn Mendes - Something Big, retrieved 2018-08-02
  27. ^ "Western marching band stars in new Shawn Mendes video". CTV London. November 11, 2014.
  28. ^ "GRETA CONSTANTINE FALL/WINTER 16". monmode. March 26, 2016.
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  32. ^ "School Song to be Recorded". The Gazette. 5 November 1931.
  33. ^ University of Western Ontario, Occidentalia 1956, 70.
  34. ^ "Western Mustangs". westernmustangs.ca. Retrieved 2017-05-27.
  35. ^ "USC Elections: Marching Band Referendum Passes". 94.9 CHRW / Radio Western. 2015-02-10. Retrieved 2018-08-02.
  36. ^ University, Department of Communications and Public Affairs, Western (2015-10-29). "Western News - Winders: Let's change our tune about the Marching Band". Western News. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
  37. ^ "Thousands line the streets of Burlington to welcome Santa to town". InsideHalton.com. 2015-12-06. Retrieved 2018-08-02.
  38. ^ University, Department of Communications and Public Affairs, Western (2019-03-18). "Western News - Western shines in star-studded Junos opener". Western News. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  39. ^ Atad, Corey. "Highlights From The 2019 Juno Awards". Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  40. ^ "Nickelback nabs 3 trophies at MuchMusic Video Awards". CBC. Jun 21, 2009.
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  42. ^ "Vfest 2008: No Jimmy Page, but Canadian Bands Shine". www.blogto.com. Retrieved 2019-04-29.