In this paper, a reduced order model for the vibrations of bladed disk assemblies was achieved. The system studied was a 3D annulus of shroudless, "custom-tailored," mistuned blades attached to a flexible disk. Specifically, the annulus was modeled as a spectral-based "meshless" continuum structure utilizing only nodal data to describe the arbitrary volume in which the system's dynamical energy was minimized. An extended Ritz variational procedure was used to minimize this energy, subjected to constraints imposed by an assumed 3D displacement field of mathematically complete, orthonormal "blade-disk" polynomials multiplied by generalized coefficients. The coefficients were determined by constraining the polynomial series to satisfy the extended Ritz stationary equations and essential boundary conditions of the bladed disk. From this, the governing equations of motion were generated into their usual dynamical forms to calculate upperbounds on the actual free and forced responses of bladed disks. No conventional finite elements and element connectivity or component substructuring data were needed. This paper, Part I, outlines the theoretical foundation of the present model, and through extensive Monte Carlo simulations, establishes the analytical basis, predictive accuracy, and re-analysis efficiency of the present technology in the prediction of 3D maximum response amplitude of mistuned bladed disks having increasing numbers of nodal diameter excitations. Further applications validating the 3D approach against conventional finite element procedures of free and forced response prediction of a mistuned Integrally-Bladed Rotor used in practice is presented in a companion paper, Part II (Fang, McGee, and El-Aini, 2013, "A Reduced-Order Meshless Energy Model for the Vibrations of Mistuned Bladed Disks-Part II: Finite Element Benchmark Comparisons, ASME J. Turbomach., to be published.