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Paynter, John P.



Professor, director, and composer John Phillip Paynter was born May 29, 1928 in Mineral Point, Wisconsin to father Wilfred William and mother Minnie Elizabeth (Clark). As a child, Paynter took piano and organ lessons and played the clarinet like his father. He played in the school band throughout his time in school and was positively influenced by his band director, Bernard Stepner.

Paynter attended Mineral Point High School from 1942 to 1946, where he played multiple sports, including football. He began his musical studies at Northwestern in fall 1946, where he received a bachelor of music degree in 1950 and a master of music degree in theory and composition in 1951.

During his undergraduate years, he was a member of the Northwestern University “Wildcat” Marching Band (NUMB), where he marched clarinet for four years, including during Northwestern’s appearance in the 1949 Rose Bowl. He became a member of Northwestern’s Iota chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia in 1948, for whom he was made a life paid alumni member in 1963. He also joined Phi Eta Sigma in 1947, and was offered membership to Pi Kappa Lambda in 1949.

While working on his master’s degree, Paynter was made Acting Director of Bands in the absence of his mentor, Glenn Cliffe Bainum. After his 1951 graduation he was appointed to full-time faculty at Northwestern as Director of the Marching Band, Assistant Director of Bands, and Instructor of Theory. In 1953, following Mr. Bainum’s retirement, Paynter was made the second of only three Director of Bands in the history of Northwestern University, a position he would hold for the rest of his life. During his long career, Paynter taught classes in band music, conducting, and arranging. He also worked on composing and arranging music and completed more than 400 works during his lifetime. He also conducted for the Waa-Mu Show for many years, after which an award for outstanding contributions was named for him and his wife, Marietta. His 45-year career was bookended by two Rose Bowl appearances, first in 1949 as a student, and again shortly before his death in 1996.

Paynter valued the American tradition of community bands—groups comprised of music teachers and musically-trained amateurs. In 1956, he helped establish and directed the 115-piece Northshore Concert Band. To this day, the Northwestern director of bands also directs the Northshore Concert Band in his legacy. Paynter also helped organize and inspire such community groups around the world, traveling to all fifty states and four continents.

A leader in his field, Paynter was president of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, the American Bandmasters Association, and the Mid-West International Bands and Orchestra Clinic. He was a co-founder and honorary life president of the National Band Association. He also belonged to the Music Educators National Conference and Phi Beta Mu, an international honorary fraternity for band directors.

Paynter received honors from many organizations for his contributions to music. These included Pi Kappa Lambda, Phi Eta Sigma, Tri-M Modern Music Masters, Phi Beta Mu, Kappa Kappa Psi, Illinois Music Educators, the John Phillip Sousa Foundation, the National Band Association, The School Musician, The Instrumentalist (for which he edited the “New Music” column), the National Association of Music Clubs, and the Bandmasters Hall of Fame, for which he was made a charter member in 1984. In August 1987, he was named one of the inaugural recipients of the Northwestern Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award. In 1992, the Wildcat Marching Band under his direction was awarded the Sudler Trophy, an award bestowed on one university marching band every other year by the John Phillip Sousa Foundation. In June 1992, DePaul University granted him an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

At the age of 67, John P. Paynter passed away on Sunday, February 4, 1996 in Glenview, Illinois. He was married to his childhood sweetheart, Marietta (Morgan) Paynter for 47 years with whom he had two children, a son, Bruce, and a daughter, Megan Anderson. Marietta passed away in April 2018 at the age of 89 and Bruce passed in January 2019 at age 67.

John P. Paynter’s legacy lives on at Northwestern. One of his first teaching acts was to arrange the University Hymn (Alma Mater) to be sung in harmony to English words which is still sung during every football halftime and after every home game by the Wildcat Band. In 1954, he established the University Chamber Band when he began experimenting with flexible instrumentation in a single-player-per-part configuration. Renamed the Symphonic Wind Ensemble in 1969, the group maintains a reputation for innovation and artistic performance. Paynter also created "High School Band Day," a tradition where during one home football game every year thousands of high school marching band students are invited to play with the Wildcat Marching Band. He created organizational connections with the marching band alumni which led to the creation of the NUMBAlums in 1999. He was named an honorary member of the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996. After his death, his wife and children founded the John P. Paynter Foundation which offers financial support for causes of music education and community bands everywhere. A biography of his life was published in 2014 by former student Mark Camphouse (’75, ’76 MMus) called Whatsoever Things… The Life and Teachings of John P. Paynter.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Records of the Northwestern University Band Program

Identifier: 19/2/5

This collection comprises 146 boxes, containing records of the Northwestern band program from 1917 to 2007. The band program began in 1926 with the first Northwestern Director of Bands, Glenn Cliffe Bainum. After Bainum’s tenure as Director of Bands, the next person to take that position was John Philip Paynter. Mallory Thompson took over the band program as Northwestern’s third Director of Bands and holds that position as of 2022.

Dates: 1917 - 2007

John P. Paynter (1928-1996) Collection

Identifier: 19/3/9
Abstract Music professor and bandleader John Phillip Paynter began his musical studies at Northwestern, graduating with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1950 and a Master's in Theory and Composition in 1951. Upon graduation, Paynter joined NU's faculty as the Director of the Marching Band. During his career at Northwestern, Paynter taught classes in band music, conducting, and arranging. The John P. Paynter Collection consists of six series titled Biographical Materials, Office, Northwestern University...
Dates: 1923 - 2013

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