Donald Hunsberger is best known as the conductor of the Eastman Wind Ensemble, a group he led from 1965-2002. Hunsberger conducted this internationally famous student wind band in countless concerts, including 100 premieres, and made numerous recordings with them for Sony Classical, Mercury, CBS Masterworks, DG, Decca, and other major labels. Many consider Hunsberger one of the key figures in the development of wind band music and performance in the 20th century. He made numerous arrangements of popular orchestral works for wind band, including colorfully scored renditions of Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee, Kabalevsky's Colas Breugnon Overture, Shostakovich's Festive Overture, music from Khachaturian's Spartacus, and countless others. Hunsberger worked with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis on numerous such efforts, including arrangements for the Hunsberger/Marsalis album Carnaval, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1987. Although Hunsberger is almost exclusively associated with the wind band genre, he has somewhat quietly established his credentials in the realm of the symphony orchestra, leading the major orchestras of San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Houston, Buffalo, Rochester, and Calgary. Hunsberger has also conducted orchestras in the soundtracks for 18 films. If this weren't enough, Hunsberger has taught conducting for many years at the Eastman School of Music and written countless articles and several books, including The Wind Ensemble and Its Repertoire (Warner Bros. Publishing; 1997).
Donald Hunsberger was born in Souderton, PA, on August 2, 1932. He studied music at the Eastman School of Music, earning a doctorate in 1963. While a graduate student there, Hunsberger served as arranger and trombone soloist with the United States Marine Band (1954-1958).
After taking the helm at the Eastman Wind Ensemble in 1965, Hunsberger quickly developed new repertory and also forged ambitious plans for concert tours: in 1968 he led the group on a cross-country tour, and in 1978 toured Southeast Asia and Japan. From 1990-2000, Hunsberger led six concert tours of Japan. He and his energetic group were also converting this activity into highly successful recordings, as evidenced by the 1992 Sony Classical CD, Live in Osaka, a collection of works by Holst, Grainger, Sousa, and other composers.
Since his 2002 retirement from both the ensemble and teaching, Hunsberger has served as emeritus conductor of the ensemble and emeritus professor at Eastman School of Music. Hunsberger's later recordings include the 2004 Warner Bros. CD Carmen Fantasia, which features a collection of Hunsberger's arrangements.