Final Note: Donald J. Baldini (Baldwin)

Life Member. String Bass
12/5/1940 – 3/4/2024

Donald James Baldini, 83, of Westminster, Vt., died at home in the bed he made himself, just as he wished.

He was tenacious in his love for life, music, food and friends while he navigated the ups and downs of cancer for the past eight years. He will be remembered by all as a charismatic storyteller, world-class bass player and engaging teacher.

Don was born Dec. 5, 1940, in Racine, Wisc., to Italian immigrants Giovanni Baldini and Maria Fornari (aka John and Maria Baldwin). He was proud of his Italian heritage and considered his childhood in Racine idyllic.

He began his violin studies in elementary school and eventually won a scholarship to study at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. While there he took string methods classes in cello and bass, and discovered that in the bass he had “found his home.” His first job was with the Indianapolis Symphony, but it was his jazz playing that filled the rest of his career. Don left Indianapolis for Las Vegas to join the Harry James band, and later the house band at Caesar’s Palace. He established himself as a first call player who was sought after by singers and musical acts both in Las Vegas and on tour.

After a dozen or so years, Don left Las Vegas to become a studio musician in Los Angeles. While in Los Angeles he was the bass player for the Schubert Theater, recorded television and movie scores, and played in “The Tonight Show” band. He made several tours of Japan with the Toshiko Akiyoshi band and spent four years traveling the world as Frank Sinatra’s bass player.

Don left Los Angeles in 1989 to “retire” to Vermont and make furniture. His skill with hand tools developed during his time in Los Angeles, when he would come home in the early morning hours after shows and work quietly in his shop so as to not disturb his neighbors. His specialties were pencil post beds and Windsor chairs, and he was grateful to his friend and mentor, Michael Dunbar, who coached him through his first chair over the phone while he was still in L.A.

In reality, he made little furniture as the news of his musical talents quickly led him to gigs with the Vermont Symphony, Opera North, the Peterborough Players, the Keene Chamber Orchestra and other local groups. He also embarked on a new career as a teacher at Keene State College and Dartmouth College. In addition to teaching bass lessons he taught music theory and jazz history, and was the longtime director of the Keene State College Orchestra and Jazz Band. He retired from both colleges in December 2016. When not playing music, Don loved to be out fishing on his boat or playing golf.

Don married Rebecca Junnila on Jan. 21, 2017. Together they were a magnetic duo who enjoyed old friends and new. They were known for hosting great parties and sharing their love of Italy, where they spent 21 weeks over five magical trips. On rare occasions they played on the same concerts together, Don on bass or conducting and Rebecca on harp; and they treasured the opportunity to share music, except for the need to take two cars!

Don is survived by Rebecca, and stepchildren, Lauren, Pierce and Aria Emineth. He is also survived by his sister, June Rosland; his nieces, Linda Rosland and Gina Carriveau; and his grand-nieces and nephews, all of Wisconsin.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 16, 2024, at 2 p.m. at the Keene Unitarian Universalist Church, 69 Washington St., Keene. The service will also be livestreamed at

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Don Baldini Music Scholarship Fund at Keene State College through the office of Advancement, 229 Main St., Keene NH 03431.