- Whatsoever Things . . . : The Life and Teachings of John P. Paynter by Conceived and ed. by Mark Camphouse
Simply put, this book is a paean to John P. Paynter and the Northwestern University Bands. There is no question that John Philip Paynter (1928–1996) was a major figure in the American symphonic band world, and this book explains why.
Mark Camphouse, a Northwestern graduate and composer of Whatsoever Things (dedicated to the memory of John P. Paynter), felt that more than a fifteen-minute musical composition was needed to preserve the legacy of his mentor and friend. After discussing the idea with the Paynter family, Camphouse thought that a collection of recollections, stories, and anecdotes by friends and former students would do more to preserve that legacy than a straight biographical study. These recollections comprise a significant part of the book: “I wanted this story of JPP to be an eminently readable one that was told by a select group of individuals who knew him well (family, colleagues, former students, and friends) to help inspire and better prepare future generations of musicians, teachers, and, yes, audiences” (p. xviii). He encouraged the contributors to discuss Paynter’s impact on the profession, not just his work at Northwestern.
Paynter entered the music program of Northwestern University as a theory and composition major in 1946. He soon became assistant to Glenn Cliffe Bainum, the director of the 150-piece “Wildcat” Marching Band. After Bainum suffered a significant heart attack in 1950, Paynter became acting director of bands while completing his master’s degree in composition; in 1953, he became director. In addition to teaching conducting and music theory, Paynter was responsible for the Marching Band, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, and miscellaneous ensembles such as the pit orchestra for the Waa-Mu Show, a yearly original, student-composed, musical. In 1956 he became conductor of the Northshore Concert Band, a volunteer adult community organization that soon achieved international renown. With such a full schedule, one wonders how he found time to guest conduct all over America, give clinics and lectures, and serve in administrative positions (most often as president) in major band organizations and the Midwest Clinic (International Band and Orchestra Conference).
Following a brief biographical sketch by Marietta Paynter, John’s wife of forty-six [End Page 542] years, twelve graduates describe their “Northwestern Experience,” some recollecting events and anecdotes more than fifty years in the past. It is inspirational to read these tributes by Richard Blatti, Mark Camp house, Chip De Stefano, John DeWitt, Bernard J. Dobroski, Nancy Golden, Scott Golinkin, Charles B. Hawes, David C. McCormick, Mark Peterson, Stephen Peterson, and Mallory Thompson. Dennis Montgomery, a member of the Northshore Concert Band for more than forty years (and a member of the Midwest Clinic board), writes of his experiences in that adult community organization. The contributors express universal admiration of Paynter’s passion for music, his constant striving for excellence, his teaching philosophy and techniques, and the friendship that inspired such loyalty. As Golinkin remembers, part of what inspired that loyalty was how Mr. Paynter approached teaching and mentoring. “He recognized and complimented a job well done, whether performing or staff work. When he pointed out failings, it was almost always with grace and understanding. He knew this was much more effective than berating someone. A student might leave a lesson, class, or rehearsal embarrassed, but not humiliated” (p. 100)—this, in the days of “tyrannical conductors.”
Several of the writers include specific teaching points in response to Camphouse’s invitation to inspire and better prepare future generations. Dobroski has a list of twenty “Paynterisms” that are “good for both conductors and School of Music deans” (p. 80). After more than fifty years working with bands at all levels, this reviewer can attest to the significance and value of these reminders “of what is important in life,” and hopes they can be widely disseminated. Thompson also includes fifteen...