John P. Paynter was the director of bands at Northwestern University from 1953 until his death in 1996. He enrolled in the School of Music at Northwestern University in 1946 and earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in theory and composition in 1950 and 1951, respectively. He served as acting director of bands in 1950-51 while working toward his master’s degree. At age 23, he was appointed to the full-time faculty in 1951 and became director of the marching band, assistant director of bands and instructor of theory. Two years later, he succeeded Glenn Cliffe Bainum as director of bands, becoming the second person to hold this post at Northwestern University.
He also served the School of Music as professor of conducting, taught courses in conducting and band arranging, and conducted many University’s musical productions, including the famed “Waa-Mu Show.” Under Paynter’s direction, the Northwestern “Wildcats” Marching Band, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Concert and Symphonic Bands have ranked with the finest of the country.
Mr. Paynter was awarded many awards and honors from distinguished societies. In addition, in August, 1987, he was chosen as one of the inaugural recipients of the Northwestern University Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award. In June of 1992, DePaul University awarded him an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
One of the leading band conductors in America, Mr. Paynter gained the respect of musicians everywhere, as evidenced by his leadership in the organizations he served. As conductor since 1956 of the 115-piece Northshore Concert Band, he has been a world leader in the community band movement.