Western Thunder 100th Anniversary Celebrated with McMurry Matching Gift
October 25, 2013 — A major gift from philanthropists Mick and Susie McMurry through the McMurry Foundation will double all gifts up to a total of $100,000 to the University of Wyoming’s legendary Western Thunder Marching Band. Those gifts must be made or pledged in 2013.
“We congratulate the UW Western Thunder Marching Band on its 100-year anniversary,” say Mick and Susie McMurry. “We are inspired by their dedication and hard work. We are proud to help support the next 100 years and will continue to march to the beat of their drums in our mission of ‘paying it forward!’”
Western Thunder Marching Band celebrates 100 years this year, and the McMurry Foundation gift helps honor that storied history. Each time these skilled and energetic musicians perform, they honor the traditions of the University of Wyoming -- from playing “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” to spelling “WYO” on the field to the refrains of “Come On, Wyoming,” a song written by Pete and Alan Simpson’s mother, Lorna Kooi Simpson.
This is the McMurrys’ second major gift to support the Western Thunder Marching Band.
“You can’t overstate the impact that the McMurry gifts have had on the band,” says Brad Williamson, Western Thunder’s director. “The first McMurry gift was a complete change for this band when it happened three years ago. The band has grown in size by almost 50 people. The morale of the band is higher. The community support of the band is high and, thus, of athletics and the university.”
Variously known as UW Bands, University Bands, Cowboy Marching Band or Western Thunder Marching Band, the band began in 1913 as an ROTC unit and remained as a part of Military Science until after World War II. It then moved to the Department of Music to support Wyoming athletics, rather than military ceremonies.
The band has grown significantly over the years. With 70 members in the mid-1990s, Western Thunder has grown to 192 members. The band is made up of approximately one-third music majors and two-thirds from other majors across campus.
Western Thunder has traveled to at least 13 bowl games and has appeared at Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers pro football games. Part of Western Thunder, the Pep Band travels each year to the Mountain West Conference tournament and also has accompanied the team to the NCAA and NIT basketball tournaments.
Recently -- for the first time in more than a decade -- the band has traveled to away games to support the football team and its fans. In 2011, Western Thunder traveled to the Air Force game in Colorado Springs, Colo.; in 2012, it played to a crowd of more than 100,000 at the University of Texas game in Austin; and, in 2013, it played for a crowd of more than 91,000 at the season opener at the University of Nebraska. It also traveled to the State Marching Band Competition in Casper, and continues to co-sponsor a high school marching band competition with the Casper-based Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps.
The gift supports the band’s activities.
“It’ll be used to continue what we started a few years ago,” Williamson says. “It’ll continue to help the band travel to away football games, to fund McMurry graduate assistants, and to fund instrument replacement.”
The McMurrys are among the university’s most generous private supporters, and their generosity has transformed UW’s campus and programs. In addition to Western Thunder, they have given major gifts to support student scholarships, facilities, athletics and much more. The McMurrys established the McMurry Foundation in 1998 with the mission of building a better Wyoming and “paying it forward.”
The Western Thunder Marching Band performs at the 2013 University of Wyoming Homecoming parade. (UW Photo)