|Donald Harris served on the faculties and as an administrator at the New England Conservatory of Music (1967-77) and the Hartt School of Music, University of Hartford (1977-88), before becoming dean of the College of the Arts and professor of music at Ohio State in 1988. In 1997, after a thirty-year career as a senior-level administrator in higher education and the arts, he stepped down as dean and rejoined the OSU faculty in composition.
From 1954 until 1968, Harris lived and composed in Paris, France, where, among other things, he was music consultant to the United States Information Service, and produced the city's first postwar Festival of Contemporary American Music. Harris earned bachelor's and master's degrees in composition from The University of Michigan, where he was a student of Ross Lee Finney. He also studied with Lukas Foss and Boris Blacher at the Berkshire Music Center (Tanglewood), and with Nadia Boulanger, Max Deutsch, and André Jolivet in Paris.
He has received numerous commissions, including the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation in the Library of Congress, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Radio France, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. He is co-editor of the W. W. Norton publication of the correspondence between Alban Berg and Arnold Schoenberg, for which he received an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award (1989). He was honored with an award in composition from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1991), which led to a retrospective recording of his work on the CRI label (1994). His music is published by the Editions Jobert in France, and in this country by Theodore Presser and Gunmar Music. In addition to CRI, his compositions have been recorded on the Delos and NEC-Golden Crest labels.