The Eastman Wind Ensemble (EWE) is America’s first and leading wind ensemble. Its core of about 50 performers includes undergraduate and graduate students from The Eastman School of Music at The University of Rochester.
Frederick Fennell first formulated the general concept of the wind ensemble at Eastman in 1952. Under his leadership the group became known as the pioneering force in the symphonic wind band movement in the United States and abroad. The ensemble’s repertoire included major compositions originally not heard on traditional wind band/ensemble programs, such as Mozart’s Serenade No. 10 in B-flat major, K. 361 (Gran Partita) and Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments. 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 during the EWE’s 50th anniversary celebration on February 8, 2002.
Since its founding, the EWE has been at the forefront of promoting and expanding the wind repertory and elevating performance standards through commissioning, professional recordings, and touring. Over the last seven decades, the ensemble has premiered more than 200 works. One of the most substantial commissions 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.
Fennell’s Mercury “Living Presence ” recordings of the 1950’s and early 1960’s are notable for their pioneering use of contemporary recording techniques. These albums highlighted the standard wind band/ensemble literature heard for the first time in the newly balanced, one player per part instrumentation. 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. The 2004 Asia tour was followed with a release of the album, Danzante on Summit Records, featuring trumpet concertos by Dana Wilson, Eric Ewazen, and Jacques Hetu performed by Professor of Trumpet James Thompson. The ensemble’s 2008 recording, Manhattan Music with the Canadian Brass, was released on Opening Day Records with ArchivMusic and received a nomination for a Canadian Grammy (The Juno) in 2009. The EWE’s 60th anniversary season concluded with the 2013 release of an album comprised of Stravinsky’s Octet for Wind Instruments and L’Histoire du Soldat with Avie Records. This joint project, featuring the Eastman Virtuosi, was the first recording made using the Eastman School of Music’s new state-of-the-art recording control room located in the newly constructed East Wing, and the first to showcase students along with applied faculty. The EWE’s most recent recordings include a 2016 album of Roberto Sierra’s music: SIERRA LIVE (Summit), a 2018 release of Jeff Tyzik’s compositions: IMAGES (Summit), and a 2021 recording highlighting the music of David Liptak: Brightening Air (New Focus Records).
In 1968 The Eastman Wind Ensemble traveled across the United States, giving a series of concerts that culminated in a performance for the MENC (National Association for Music Education, now known as “NAFME”) Conference in Seattle. The ensemble made subsequent MENC appearances in 1987 and 1996. In 1977, 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. Between 1990 and 2004, the EWE returned to Asia on seven summer tours. These trips were sponsored by Eastman Kodak and Sony Music Foundation, and focused on demonstrating Eastman’s performance techniques and showcasing original and new compositions of the wind repertory. The Ensemble has gone on subsequent tours to perform at the CBDNA National Convention in Carnegie Hall (2005), the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic (2000 and 2009), University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium (2009), MusicFest Canada (2013), a first ever European tour with The Eastman Harmonie (2016), and Cleveland’s Severance Hall (2019).
Alumni from the Eastman Wind Ensemble have gone on to perform in the world’s most prestigious performing organizations, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Toronto Symphony, Metropolitan Opera, New World Symphony, as well as the premier ensembles of the United States military, among others.
The EWE has continued to reflect upon its rich history and legacy through successive anniversary celebrations: including the 40th Anniversary in 1992, 50th Anniversary in 2002, and 60th Anniversary in 2013. These events included conferences, performances, commissions by renowned composers, and conducting masterclasses. The most recent 70th Anniversary in 2023 culminated in the presentation of the Eastman Centennial Award to conductor emeritus Donald Hunsberger.