The Western community is mourning the death of Don McKellar, former Faculty of Music Associate Dean and music pioneer, who died Sunday, Aug. 28. He was 90.
Born and raised in St. Thomas, Ont., McKellar taught secondary school music in Ottawa after graduating from the University of Toronto and Rochester Eastman School of Music.
In 1961, he moved to Western. With Dean Clifford von Kuster, McKellar was instrumental in developing the Faculty of Music (now the Don Wright Faculty of Music), where he served as Founding Chairman of the Music Education Department and later Associate Dean. He was Music Director of London’s Grand Theatre in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the founding conductor of UWO’s Concert Band and Symphony Orchestra.
McKellar’s influence in the world of music education has been felt locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. His presence continued locally as a conductor of bands and attendee at concerts. He taught music for 40 years including 30 years at Western, as well as adjudicating music competitions across Canada and overseas. The Ontario Band Association recognized his commitment to establishing bands in Ontario and granted him honorary membership, one of only two people given this honour.
He is survived by his children, Laura Jean McCann (partner Allan Leitch) of Thorndale and Donald Ellar McKellar (partner Kathleen MacDonald) of Vancouver; grandchildren, Wesdon McCann (husband Gabe Traczuk), Laran McCann, Andrew McKellar, Colin and Kate MacDonald McKellar; and sister, Jean Dollar (husband John) in London.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. Hugh Ellar McKellar and Ellen Mary McKellar (Andrews); his first wife, Wesanne (née Anderson); his second wife, Judy (Nancekivell); daughter, Ellen Mary; and brother, Ian.
During the Don Wright Faculty of Music Reunion Weekend, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, the Alumni Concert – featuring both the Alumni Choir, conducted by Joan Andrews (Class of 1966), and the Faculty Brass Quintet (Musica Quinta) – will be dedicated in memory of Don McKellar. Alumni and guests are invited to attend the concert, which begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, in von Kuster Hall, Don Wright Faculty of Music. Please register at Western Alumni page.
Other tributes will be planned as the year unfolds.