Spring 2015

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Former Northwestern marching band director John P. Paynter. Photo courtesy of University Archives.

John Paynter: The Leader of the Band

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The late John P. Paynter is a Northwestern legend. The clarinetist played in Pasadena, Calif., at the 1949 Rose Bowl as a member of the Northwestern University Marching Band. Four years later, Paynter ’50, ’51 MMus became the band director at age 23. The second of only three band directors in the University’s history, he held the post for more than 40 years and went on to become a beloved professor in the Bienen School of Music, where he taught music arranging and conducting to thousands of students. Paynter died in February 1996.

The new book Whatsoever Things… The Life and Teachings of John P. Paynter (GIA Publications, 2014) features essays by Mallory Thompson ’79, ’80 MMus, the current band director and a professor in the music school, and more than a dozen other Northwestern alumni and friends, on Paynter’s lessons on leadership, integrity and the important of the arts and music. The book was conceived and edited by former Paynter student Mark Camphouse ’75, ’76 MMus.

Described as both demanding and funny, Paynter never asked more from a student than he was prepared to give himself, says his son Bruce ’73, ’76 JD, a former member of the band and now a criminal defense attorney in Glenview, Ill. “He was unyielding in setting high standards without becoming a dominating dictator.”

Beyond Northwestern, Paynter was conductor and founder of the renowned Northshore Concert Band and helped organize community bands across the country. “He was a constant advocate for community music,” Bruce says. “He believed that music was a lifelong avocation.”