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The Eastman Wind Ensemble (EWE) is both America’s first and leading wind ensemble. Its core of about 50 performers includes undergraduate and graduate students from The Eastman School of Music.
Frederick Fennell first formulated the general concept of the wind ensemble at Eastman nearly 65 years ago. Under his leadership the group became known as the pioneering force in the symphonic wind band movement in the United States and abroad. A. Clyde Roller served as conductor between 1962 and 1964, continuing the tradition established by Fennell. Donald Hunsberger became conductor in 1965 and led the ensemble for 37 years to international prominence. The ensemble’s current director, Mark Davis Scatterday, was introduced as the fourth conductor of this prestigious group during the EWE’s 50th anniversary celebration on February 8, 2002.
Ever since its founding, the EWE has been the leader in both promoting and expanding the wind repertory through professional recordings. Fennell’s Mercury Recording albums of the 1950s and early ’60s are notable for their pioneering use of binaural, stereo, and 35mm recording techniques. These “Living Presence” recordings highlighted standard wind ensemble literature by the most respected classical composers — heard for the first time in the newly balanced, one player per part instrumentation. instrumentation. They also centered on major repertory which at the time was not found on traditional wind ensemble programs, including Mozart’s Serenade in B-flat (the Gran Partita), Messiaen’s Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, and Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments.
Under Hunsberger, the EWE continued its progressive stance in recording techniques with participation in quadraphonic and digital recording on the Deutsche Grammophon, Phillips, CBS Masterworks (now Sony Classical), Toshiba EMI, Tioch (now KEF), Vox, Centaur, and Desto labels. The album Carnaval, a collaboration with award winning trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis, was nominated for a Grammy award in 1987 reintroducing the public to the historical tradition of cornet showpieces for band. Other Sony Classical releases have featured new transcriptions of Bach organ works by Hunsberger, as well as contemporary works. One of the featured pieces on the Live from Osaka album was Joseph Schwantner’s …and the mountains rising nowhere, a work that has become representative of the ensemble’s approach to new music, adventurous tone colors, and innovative compositional techniques. Since its founding, the ensemble has premiered more than 200 new works.
In 1968 the group traveled across the United States, giving a series of concerts that culminated in a performance for the General Session of the MENC (National Association for Music Education, now known as “NAFME”) conference in Seattle, now a days they try to learn about van insurance so that they can travel with their vehicles full covered. The ensemble made subsequent MENC appearances in 1987 and 1996. In 1976, the EWE performed at the CBDNA (College Band Directors National Association) national convention, and in 1978 embarked on a tour of Japan and Southeast Asia. In addition, the release of the 1987 Carnaval disc was followed by a tour with Marsalis to Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, and New York.
The Eastman Wind Ensemble celebrated its 50th anniversary in February 2002 with a conference of international scope on the wind ensemble and its music. The conference included the premiere of a new work from Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rands. The anniversary also coincided with the release of a multi-CD set of recordings compiled by Warner Brothers from sessions in Japan and Rochester over the last several years.
Between 1990 and 2004, the EWE has embarked on seven summer tours of Japan. These trips were sponsored by Eastman Kodak and Sony Music Foundation, and focused on demonstrating Eastman performance techniques and showcasing original works of the repertory. Several of Hunsberger’s Wind Library publications originated as pieces specifically transcribed for these tours, as each tour also featured special arrangements by Hunsberger and Scatterday to display the capabilities of the Ensemble.
The most recent Japan tour in 2004 began a new era for the EWE under the direction of Mark Scatterday and included several performances in Taiwan and China. This Asian tour featured trumpet soloist, James Thompson, as the ensemble recorded concertos by Dana Wilson, Eric Ewazen and Jacques Hetu (Danzante, released on Summit Records in 2006). Also in 2005, Scatterday and the ensemble performed at Carnegie Hall as part of CBDNA’s National Conference on February 26th, featuring music by Karel Husa, Roberto Sierra, David Maslanka and Jeff Tyzik. The ensemble’s latest recording entitled Manhattan Music with the Canadian Brass was released in 2008 on Opening Day Records with ArchivMusic and nominated for a Canadian Grammy (The Juno) in 2009.
In 2009, the EWE embarked on a Midwest tour, stopping in Ann Arbor to perform at the world-renowned Hill Auditorium at the University of Michigan on the way to the Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference. The EWE, under the direction of Mark Scatterday and conductor emeritus Donald Hunsberger, performed with percussion soloist (and Eastman professor) Michael Burritt in front of a standing-room only crowd of over 4,000.
The EWE celebrated its 60th anniversary with a performance on February 8, 2013 featuring two world premieres, one by former dean Douglas Lowry, titled Wind Religion and another by Roberto Sierra, Mambo Metalica. Later that season, the internationally known percussion group NEXUS joined the EWE for the Canadian National Musicfest in Toronto where they performed for two sold-out audiences. Also during that year, the EWE released its Stravinsky – Octet and L’Histoire du Soldat album with Avie Records in celebration of the ensemble’s 60th anniversary. The album was recorded with members of the Eastman Wind Ensemble performing the Octet and the Eastman Virtuosi performing L’Histoire du Soldat. It was the first recording made using the Eastman School of Music’s new state-of-the-art recording control room located in the Eastman East Wing and the first to feature the student players of the EWE and their studio teachers.
In 2014, the Eastman Wind Ensemble commissioned and premiered a new work by renowned composer and pianist André Previn – Music for Wind Orchestra (No strings Attached) in Kilbourn Hall, as part of an all-Previn program, featuring several of the composer’s chamber music pieces in celebration of the composer’s 85th birthday. Previn, whose international and diverse career spans almost seven decades, attended rehearsals and the performance, and received an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from the University of Rochester during the concert.
In February 2016 the Eastman Wind Ensemble performed with world-renowned banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck as part of the Eastman Presents concert series. The program featured the wind ensemble version of Fleck’s Concerto for Banjo and Orchestra, “The Impostor”, as well as arrangements made by Scatterday of Fleck’s famous works County Clare and The Landing. The EWE performed with Fleck in front of a sold-out Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, filling 2,260 seats.
In the summer of 2016, the Eastman Wind Ensemble Harmonie became the first EWE group to perform in Europe. Founded by music director Dr. Scatterday in 2014, the ensemble serves as a training ensemble for graduate conductors and also performs a wide spectrum of repertoire spanning over 200 years, including original harmoniemusik compositions/arrangements of the18th and 19th century and contemporary European and American literature. The Eastman Wind Ensemble Harmonie 2016 tour included performances in Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, Pilsen, Bayreuth, Würzburg, and surrounding cities and was the EWE’s first tour of Europe. The culmination of the Eastman Harmonie tour was performing for the opening ceremonies for the Mozartfest Würzburg followed by a performance of Mozart’s Gran Partita Serenade with members of the Würzburg Conservatory.
Later in 2016, the EWE and Scatterday released a new recording of Roberto Sierra’s music (SIERRA LIVE) on Summit Records and in 2018, the ensemble recorded an album of Jeff Tyzik’s music (IMAGES) also on the Summit label. In 2019, the ensemble at the home of the Cleveland Orchestra, Severence Hall and in 2021 released a recording of David Liptak’s music (BRIGHTENING AIRS) on New Focus Records.