M. B. “Nunie” Nunamaker (whose full name was Milton Blackburn Nunamaker) was born on February 17, 1906 in Ogden, Utah and died on November 2, 1970 at his home in Globe, where he suffered a massive heart attack. His parents were Guy Blackburn Nunamaker and Gertrude Thompson. Nunie’s father died in a railroad accident when Nunie was 7 years old. Nunie’s mother later married William Strausbaugh, who became Nunie’s stepfather.
Nunie spent most of his childhood in Pocatello, Idaho. He learned to play the trumpet and the violin as a youth, and, while attending Pocatello High School, played with several local dance bands.
After his graduation from high school, Nunie attended Idaho State University for a year, and then traveled with the Orpheum (later RKO) vaudeville circuit as a trumpet player. After two years, he left the circuit in New York City, where he lived until 1939. While in New York, he played on the Eddie Cantor show, at Radio City Music Hall, and with various society bands, including orchestras led by George Olson and Paul Whiteman. He played in bands with the Dorsey brothers and Glenn Miller, among others. He studied arranging under Ferde Grofé (the composer of the “Grand Canyon Suite”), to whom he had been introduced by Whiteman, and took courses at Columbia University.
In autumn 1938, Nunie told his friend Glenn Miller, “Glenn, I’m going back to college.” Miller replied (by Nunie’s own account), “The hell you are! I’m forming a new band, and I want you to join me.” Nunie replied “Thanks, Glenn, but no. I’m going to teach music.” Had he joined the Miller orchestra in 1938, Nunie would have had a much different life – it was the 1938 Glenn Miller Orchestra that first had the Miller trademark “clarinet lead over saxophone quartet” sound, famous for “Moonlight Serenade,” “In the Mood” and “Tuxedo Junction.”
Nunie left New York in early 1939. In 1942, he received a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He joined the Army Air Corps that year, and played U.S.O. and other programs with an Air Corps band. After his discharge in 1945, he moved to Denver to lead a 10-piece commercial band named “Milton Nunie and His Orchestra,” which was made up of ex-servicemen.
Nunie then taught music for four years at public schools in Alliance and Imperial, Nebraska. He returned to Denver, where he enrolled at Denver University. While he pursued a master’s degree, he taught music to private students and played for ice shows, at KOA Radio and with pick-up bands. He received his master’s degree in 1952.
In 1954, Nunie became the Globe High School Band director. He did not have the Band compete in the marching band competition at UofA Band Day during his first year as director (which was also the first year that UofA hosted Band Day), because he wanted to understand the competition better. In 1955, the Band did complete, and won a “Superior” award (the highest) for its performance. The Band continued to win Superior awards for 16 straight years – 1955–1970. Nunie’s last Superior award came on November 21, 1970, less than 3 weeks after he died. Because of the GHS Band’s string of Superior awards under Nunie, and Nunie’s friendship with long-time UofA Band director Jack Lee, UofA established the “Nunamaker Award of Distinction” for marching band performances of special merit at UofA Band Day.
During Nunie’s tenure as director, from 1955–1969 the GHS concert band also received Superior awards at the music festival held each spring at Eastern Arizona College in Thacher. On December 13, 1964, the Band performed at half-time during the regionally-telecast NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the Los Angeles Rams held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
M.B. "Nunie" Nunamaker
Globe High School
Guy Blackburn Nunamaker
Gertrude N. Strausbaugh
MILTON B. NUNAMAKER
Cpl. US Army
World War II
Feb 17 1906 Nov 2 1970