John P. Paynter
1996 Honorary Inductee
John P. Paynter came to Northwestern University as an undergraduate student in 1946 and stayed for 50 years, raising the Northwestern University bands and especially the "Wildcat" Marching Band to national acclaim and prestige through his musical and marching expertise and enthusiasm.
Paynter was a true Wildcat, earning his bachelor's and master's degrees from NU in the early 1950s. From the outset of his selection in 1953 to be the University's second director of bands, Paynter displayed an extraordinary gift for reaching the heart of his band and his University, creating an internal pride and spirit that has remained the hallmark of the "Wildcat" Marching Band to this day.
As a former high school football player and a lifetime fan of all sports, Paynter constantly reinforced the central role he demanded that his bands play in the spirit of his University and its teams. To "JPP," the marching band, football team and Northwestern University were all interlocking parts of the same whole.
Paynter was director of NU bands from 1953-96 and was considered to be one of the most imaginative leaders in his field. Among the many marching innovations introduced by Paynter were the band's high-energy 270-degree flip turns, full spins, backwards marching and full-scale animation on the field. One of his first acts was to arrange the University Hymn (Alma Mater) to be sung in harmony to English words. Paynter also created "High School Band Day" and the NUMBalums, the marching band alumni.
Paynter had traveled as an undergraduate member of the Northwestern Band to the 1949 Rose Bowl. Forty seven years later, he realized his long-standing dream of bringing the Northwestern Marching Band back to Pasadena, directing the Alma Mater at the 1996 Rose Bowl. Ironically, these appearances would be seen as the bookends to his career as he passed away suddenly only three weeks after that memorable Rose Bowl.
John P. Paynter continues to be remembered as having been one of the great ambassadors of goodwill for Northwestern University, its bands and its athletic programs.