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Mustang Sally preparing for The Great Big Gig

Korah Collegiate’s 50th anniversary celebrations to include concert by current, past Mustang Sally members
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Trenton Whillans, Mustang Sally keyboardist, Greg Ryckman, Mustang Sally director/Korah Collegiate music teacher and Hannah Nicoletta, Mustang Sally keyboardist, fiddler and vocalist, are looking forward to The Great Big Gig, a concert to be held Apr. 27 at The Marconi Club, which will include current and past Mustang Sally members. Darren Taylor/SooToday

There were times when Greg Ryckman thought Mustang Sally’s number was up.

But the group, formed by music teacher Ryckman and consisting of students from Korah’s music program, has continued since the time it began in 2002 to the point where he is planning The Great Big Gig, a fundraiser concert for the group to be held Apr. 27 at The Marconi Club which will include current and past Mustang Sally members as part of Korah Collegiate’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Mustang Sally’s lineup changes partially each year as Korah’s students graduate from high school, and since its creation the group has given many top-notch performances both locally and elsewhere in Ontario, with some of its past members now music industry professionals.

“Because we’ve been going so long, some of the Korah reunion people are past Mustang Sally musicians as well, so the bulk of the band (at the Apr. 27 Great Big Gig concert) will be Mustang Sally alumni,” Ryckman told SooToday.

“There have been many musicians who have come from Korah and I’ve asked them to come back for the show.”

“Some people jumped at the opportunity to do it. Most of them did. A lot of them don’t live here any more. We have people coming from Nashville and Toronto just to do this.”

“It’s going to be an incredible event.”

Ryckman estimated 30 musicians will take part in The Great Big Gig.

“Some of them are around 30 years old now. They’re married, they have kids, they have their careers, and lots of them are pursuing music as a career, which was my vision for them way back when. Now, we’re sitting around talking like adults and sharing things musically.”

Many of them had their first rehearsal together Sunday in preparation for The Great Big Gig, Ryckman said. 

“It was really a special experience for sure.”

Ryckman contacted Tyson Hanes, a former Mustang Sally member and student of Ryckman’s now living in Nashville, by email, inviting him to return to the Sault for the show.

Hanes is a professional country singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist.

“He got right back to me and said ‘you’ll never believe this, I’m back in town that weekend anyway,’” Ryckman said.

Another friend of Ryckman’s, Toronto-based Jeff Pighin, will also be a part of the lineup.

“It’s really fascinating because Jeff and I met in the music room upstairs here at Korah when we were in high school, and we both kind of knew back then we would be music teachers, and here we are that amount of time later and our teacher was Mr. (Peter) White, who’s retiring in June, and he’ll be on stage that night too, so there are going to be some really magical moments.”

Ryckman was formally trained in music at the University of Western Ontario and, before his teaching days began, toured Canada as a rock musician.

Former Mustang Sally member Angela Noseworthy will be travelling from London, Ontario for the gig, along with professional singer Morgan Steele (“a big player in the vocals side, a key player,” Ryckman said).

“I think it says a lot about the music program at Korah to come back for the gig. I’m just an organizer. I think Mustang Sally has a life of its own and it continues every year and I’m seeing the rewards from it now,” Ryckman said.

The current Mustang Sally lineup begins its semiannual tour next week, travelling to Thessalon, Chapleau, Elliot Lake, Toronto and Sudbury before returning home for the Friday, Apr. 27 Great Big Gig.

The current school year’s Mustang Sally group includes 12 musicians (seven males, five females).

Ryckman said “I think we can categorize this year as a tribute year, seeing we’ve lost so many good musicians in the past few months, so we’re focusing a lot on Tom Petty, Gord Downie and Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries.”

“I’ve got some really awesome musicians and we’ve been able to pull it off…tears are shed sometimes in our rehearsal room. Art and music are emotional things, I think that’s a sure sign the students are doing it right, that they care about music.”   

“It’s such a fun experience (being a part of the Mustang Sally lineup),” said Trenton Whillans, a Grade 11 Korah student now in his third year with the group on keyboards. 

“We learn a ton here and have a great time doing it. It’s one of the highlights of my week.”

“The amount of collaboration that goes into this…we’re a band of 12 people, that’s a big band, so we definitely have to get along. But honestly, we have such a great time, it’s like a family. It’s something you wouldn’t learn in a classroom,” Whillans said.

He said his experience with the group has led him to consider a career in music as “an option.”

“I’ve met a couple of the alumni…and you really start thinking about where you could be in a decade and a half. You think ‘hey, if they can do it maybe I could do it too,’” Whillans said.

A career in music is definitely the goal for Hannah Nicoletta, a Grade 11 Mustang Sally member who is a fiddler, keyboardist and vocalist.

“I got the opportunity to message some of the alumni to invite them back for The Great Big Gig,” Nicoletta said.

“I asked them questions about where they are now…and as someone who wants to go to university for music, and teach music in high school, it was actually a really nice experience to see people who came from a place where I am now get into the industry, and do whatever they want in music, because of the experience they’ve had in Mustang Sally.”

The Great Big Gig, featuring the Mustang Sally 2017-2018 lineup and the Mustang Sally alumni band, begins with the doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Friday Apr. 27 at The Marconi Club. 

Tickets are $10 and available at Korah Collegiate. 

It is an age 19 and over event.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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