By Serena Hua, Western Communications
“So the question is: What would you do if money wasn’t an object?”
Quinn Fleming sat in the Mustang Lounge of the University Community Centre pondering a question he asked himself. It took him awhile to come up with an answer. But the one he eventually landed on reflected perfectly on who he has become at Western.
Since the fourth year of his first undergraduate degree, Fleming has been the conductor of the Western Mustang Band. However grateful he’s been for his opportunity to build the marching band, Fleming also reveals how difficult his life as a student has been.
“It’s been extremely hard balancing school, for both of my undergraduate degrees,” said Fleming, BMus’17, currently working on BEd now. “I faced getting kicked out for academic probation because I was prioritizing the marching band.”
Who can blame him? It’s become an integral part of his life.
In Grade 11, Fleming started playing in a marching band in his hometown of Windsor, Ont. Since then, his summers have been dedicated to playing in a variety of marching bands. “It started when I got the bug for drum and bugle corps; it’s like marching band on steroids,” he said.
Fleming worked in the United States with the Oregon Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps before moving to the famed Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps to compete. The experience was definitely treasured and even helped Fleming decide that he wanted to become a Music major.
“I was focused on how marching band makes music programs so dynamic in The States and involves so many kids and opportunities,” he said. “So I was kind of going into Western with the passion of doing that in Canada.”
However, his idea quickly deflated in first year when he saw the Western Mustang Band – all 12 members.
Instead, he and his roommate tried out for the Mustang Cheer Team before the coach insisted that Fleming follow his passion for music. Fleming has since created an atmosphere of student engagement within the band that never existed.
When it comes to leadership, his band members have coined the term “Quinn-tatorship” to describe the strict, yet reliable leadership style he has in order to bring consistency to the band.
“Quinn has worked hard to develop a marching band containing more than 130 members and has made Mustangs Athletics, and all of Western, proud to be Mustangs,” said Dan Durack, Event Coordinator, Sport and Recreation Services.
This past March, the Western Marching Band performed at the 2019 Juno Awards alongside the Western Cheer Team and musicians Loud Luxury and Brando.
“Once you think about it, two grads (Loud Luxury), one of them from Popular Music Studies, and they just won a Juno three years later, and then there are the cheerleaders. What other school has cheerleaders like that? What other school has a marching band?”
It’s impossible to miss the pride in his eyes when he recounts the experience.
The young conductor’s biggest goal while working with his band is to make sure that every member has a good time while performing. Especially when it came to the Junos, he explained that, as long as every individual person does their job, the whole piece comes together creating the big effect.
“As they worked harder, it became more fun,” Fleming said.
“Having this positive feedback from the school – either just from students at football games or from actual administration with (Western President Amit) Chakma coming backstage to visit us at the Junos – it makes a lot more tangible as to why we practice three times a week, because now the president comes down and supports us and acknowledges us.”
The difference in support from the beginning of Fleming’s marching band career to the respect he receives now is noticeable. “Members used to be afraid to say they were in the band – now we have something like the Junos that puts the band on the front page.”
Although he’s proud of the band as they are today, there have been some ups and downs to constructing a successful marching band from, essentially, nothing. In fact, Fleming depicts his overall experience within the marching band as a sad one.
“I built the band in the image of what I wanted to join in first year. Now that it’s finally reaching there, I’m not a member, I’m the adult. As it gets better, I miss it more.”
The experience of working with the marching band is one he would never regret, regardless of the hardships.
“It hasn’t been entirely fantastic,” Fleming said. “It’s been a grind, but it’s worthwhile.”
Fleming is currently finishing his final year of his second undergraduate degree. If all works out well, his goal is “becoming a music teacher because that is the job that will pay the bills. So the question is: What would you do if money wasn’t an object? If you won a billion dollars, what would you do once you’re done partying?”
“I would probably want to spend my time running a marching band in my community. I would be happy with doing for the rest of my life.”