Donald McKellar

Update: September 1, 2016

The following information was created for an event in 2014 when alumni and friends joined in tribute to name a space in the new facility in honour of Don McKellar. Don McKellar passed away on Sunday, August 29, 2016. Read more.

Donald McKellar is professor emeritus at the Don Wright Faculty of Music, Western University. As founding associate dean and founding chairman of the Music Education Department, he helped develop the Faculty into one of the largest in Canada. Don also served as acting dean from 1970 to 1971.

To recognize some of Don’s many accomplishments, The Faculty of Music plans to name space in its new facility. He spoke about this building at a gathering of friends at the end of March. Please help us continue his legacy by making a gift today. Together we can ensure Don’s name lives on in this new space, and that future students will gather in it to learn and rehearse.

Donations are tax deductible, can be pledged over time and paid in installments. Visit our secure site at or call 519-661-4200 to make a donation by phone.

Don’s speech on Youtube: Part 1 Part 2

Honouring Don McKellar Slideshow (PPT)

Professor McKellar is known as a builder of musical education programs. He was:

  • founding conductor of Western’s symphony orchestra and bands
  • founding conductor of London Youth Orchestra
  • senior conductor of many youth summer music camps, including the National Music Camp of Canada and the Ontario Music Leadership Camp
  • conductor of the International Symphony Orchestra of Sarnia -Port Huron
  • music director and conductor of musical theatre productions at Theatre London for 10 years


Don is a graduate of:

  • the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester
  • the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto
  • the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto
  • the Western Conservatory of Music, London, Ontario

Early years:

  • secondary school music teacher at Nepean High School, Ottawa
  • invited to London to be the first secondary school full-curriculum music teacher
  • developed pilot secondary school music
programs for London

London school music programs today are considered to be among the finest in Canada.

Professional achievements:

  • past president of the Canadian University Music Society, past president of the Ontario Music Educators Association
  • past senior vice-president of the International Society of Music Education
  • author of the Aim and Goals of the Canadian Music Educators Association, adopted by Canadian Provincial Music Education Associations
  • adjudicated major music festivals from coast to coast in Canada and abroad, including Hong Kong. Professor McKellar is bilingual and adjudicated in English and French for more than 50 years.
  • escorted many Canadian youth, bands, orchestras and choirs to conferences and festivals
in Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Canada for more than 25 years with the Ottawa Arts Bureau of the Continent
  • artistic director and producer of National Youth Orchestra Festivals at the National Arts Centre, Ottawa
  • presented many pre-concert commentary for the
National Arts Center Orchestra, Ottawa and commentator and occasional conductor of Orchestra London Canada

As part of the 1978 celebrations of Western’s 100th anniversary, Don chaired the World Congress
of the International Society of Music Education. More than 2,000 delegates from around the world attended, and 60 youth ensembles and
internationally acclaimed clinicians performed. It was the largest and most successful congress held by ISME up to that time and placed the Faculty of Music at Western as a leader in the field of music education in the world.


  • awarded the "Jubilate Award of Merit" (the highest honor of the Canadian Music Educators Association) in recognition of significant contribution to music education in Canada
  • Honorary Life Member of the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators Association
  • Honorary Life Member of the Ontario Music Educators Association
  • Honorary Life Member of the Ontario Band Association in appreciation of his contribution to school music education and commitment to establishing bands in Ontario
  • 2005 City of London, Mayor's Honour Person of the Year in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the arts in London

In 2005, Gary McPherson, then president of ISME wrote: "ISME conveys a very special thank you to Don for his magnificent work over many
years developing music education in Canada and internationally. Thank you Don for your efforts to develop the world of music education."

Recent accomplishments:

  • produced the 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert for the London Kiwanis Music Festival
  • produced the National Canadian "Youth Talent Competition" for Western Fair, London
  • produced “Music Reigns" for two years, which raised more than $200,000 for Orchestra London and Kings University College.
  • served as master of ceremonies for the annual "Stars of the London Kiwanis Music Festival"

flickr icon Don McKellar Event Photos

mckellar event

youtube icon Speech Part 1

youtube icon  Speech Part 2