Donald Nitz was born in 1932 in Gallatin Gateway near Bozeman, Montana. He attended Carleton College and received his B.A. in 1953. He then went to Stuttgart, Germany, on a Fulbright Grant for l953-1954 and traveled throughout Germany and much of Europe, experiencing the culture and history. He returned to the U.S. and the University of Montana to earn his M.M.E. in 1958, and completed his studies with a D.M.A. from Boston University in 1964. While at Boston, he was a Teaching Assistant in the Music Department.
Don began his teaching career in the Emmett, Idaho, Public Schools from 1954-55 and then the Helena, Montana, public schools from 1956-59. He started college teaching at Northern Montana College from 1959-62. In 1964, Bill Abbott recruited him to River Falls. In the days before Hiring Committees and bureaucratic overload, the Department chairman was solely responsible for hiring. Bill Abbott was responsible for hiring most of the faculty in the Music Department.
At River Falls, Don taught double reeds (oboe and bassoon), music education courses, harpsichord performance, and conducted the band and orchestra. He enjoyed understanding instruments thoroughly and built a harpsichord from scratch for himself and another for the university. He served as Chairman of the Music Department from 1978-86. He was noted for his organizing abilities and efficiency. He handled the growing paperwork of the chairman with aplomb.
Don had a long and very active career. He published a number of articles on music education in professional journals such as "Wisconsin School Musician Magazine," "The Norfolk Musical Society Journal," and "The Journal of Research in Music." He wrote the "History of the UW-RF Commissioned Composer Project" for the College Music Society Magazine. He served on many committees in the Music Department, in the College of Arts and Sciences, and for the university, such as the Graduate Council. He was coordinator for the UW-RF - Paris program, in cooperation with the Paris American Academy for summer schools. In 1976 he taught at the UW Center in Copenhagen for a semester, and he and his wife Lori enjoyed traveling around Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.
He arranged many music festivals in the area and all-day clinics on campus hosted by the Music Department. He was well known in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the conferences he ran were always well organized and well run.
Don also performed frequently, sometimes as soloist on harpsichord, sometimes in ensembles on oboe or bassoon, and in collaboration with others on piano. He was very versatile and talented and generous with accompanying both colleagues and students for recitals and other performances. He invited groups, such as the Recorder Ensemble, to practice at his house, and he played harpsichord with them.
Don retired in 1994, after teaching at UW-RF for 30 years. He and Lori moved to Iowa City, where Don died in 1999. They have two daughters.