This gem from our archives originally ran in the July 1979 issue.
John Paynter became a university band director at the age of 21, hand-picked for the prestigious Northwestern University position, by Glenn Cliffe Bainum, who was the director of bands for the 27 years between 1926 and 1953. Paynter remained at Northwestern until his passing in 1996, and his influence had been felt around the world through personal appearances as adjudicator, clinician, and guest conductor; as the composer or arranger of over 400 works; as the president of professional associations; and as the former contributing editor for the new music review section of this magazine.
Do you remember the day you first walked into Northwestern and met Bainum?
Oh yes, I can remember that vividly. I played an audition for him in old Music Hall that we abandoned only two years ago. He opened a sight-reading book, one I still use, and asked me to play. I think the audition lasted all of a minute and a half. He told me I was a "marvelous" clarinet player, and that I was in the band. (1 knew at the time he was just being awfully nice, and as years went by I knew it even better.) But the most important thing I remember was that before I left the room he asked me if I knew how to operate a mimeograph machine. I said yes (even though I never had seen one) because I knew from the look on his face that he wanted a mimeograph operator, and he wanted me to say yes. With that he handed me a stencil, one of his intricate marching band maneuvers, and asked me if I would run it. He went back to more auditions, and I suddenly had a job on the band staff. 1 went to the machine, put the stencil on upside down, and very nearly ruined it completely. The secretary and 1 spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to get it cleaned up and make it useful. I don’t think he ever found out about the problem.
What did you learn from him?
Oh, my goodness, that would be a book. More than anything else I would have to say musicianship. He was such a marvelous musician, so much better than most people knew that it amazes me even today how much musicality he showed in his writing and in his conducting and in talking about music. The things that he said just off hand about music have become such giant precepts in my own thinking. I don’t recall ever hearing him talk about pitch, or saying "flat" or "sharp." I rarely ever heard him say "loud" or "soft"; he talked about shading and flexibility and warmth and nuance. These were words he used over and over again, and I think he achieved all the rest through that device. When his bands played in tune – and they did – and when they played with the right balance, it was all done on the basis of musicianship. He was also a great baton technician, with one of the most unusual and effective batons ever. And from him I learned a great deal about organization, efficiency, integrity, and preparation. I’m not nearly as good at it as he was, but I would have been a lot worse if it were not for him.
How about his human qualities, his personal relationships?
With people he knew well his personality had the normal ups and downs; but he was especially good with the person he knew only as a member of the band, or in an all-state group, or as a student in his class. He had the ability to make these casual acquaintances feel immediately that he knew them more intimately, making them feel needed and treating them in just the right way.
Who else influenced you?
I grew up in a very small town, Mineral Point, Wisconsin; and a gentleman named John Alderson lived there. He was sort of the Mr. Everything in music: he played cornet and was director of the town band, played violin in the Sunday school orchestra, and was the organist at the church I attended. Every Sunday afternoon he gave me free organ lessons. I’d go to the church and sit for two or three hours with him; he would teach by example, just playing more than anything else. He was also a good composer and an incredible man. In fact when he was in his 70s he slipped on the ice and broke his left wrist and couldn’t bend it enough to play the violin any more, so he re-strung the instrument the opposite way and learned to play all over again, left-handed.
Adeline Paulsrud and Ruth Wilhelmsen (who became Ruth Paynter when she married a shirt-tail cousin of mine) were both St. Olaf graduates and conducted the school choirs in the St. Olaf tradition. With them I learned sight-singing and the ability to express myself with my voice. They just did not believe in pop music or rinky-dink materials of any kind, so we sang very
I think the turning point for me was when I was in the 9th grade and Bernard Stepner came to town as the band director. After just one year he was drafted, but in that short time he influenced a lot of us; and out of that small class we had nearly 20 people who did well in music.
Being born and raised in a small town was very fortunate for me because it was the kind of setting where there was absolutely no restriction on opportunities. (There were plenty of restrictions on behavior and I view that also as a plus.) If a young person wanted to take part in athletics, music, drama, boy scouts, and church, it wasn’t an exception, it was almost the rule. Everyone was able to do everything.
Can you remember your first contact with music?
From the earliest days I can remember I was interested in music. No one ever forced me; it was just a part of what was good in life. There was a piano in the house and the occasional evening when we all sat around and either sang or played or did both. There were three girls and me in the family, and all four children took piano lessons as early as we could. It might have been first or second grade when I started piano, and there were the usual periods of dropping out and coming back to it. We never had a lot of money (my dad was a plumber long before plumbers made much money), but there was always money for music.
My dad played clarinet in the city band, and my mother played the piano quite well. I can remember wanting to play an instrument and my dad bringing me one of his clarinets to try. Very shortly after that he bought me a new clarinet.
Did you play in a school band?
Oh yes, I started in the 5th grade. An advantage of the small town was that you played in the high school band when you were ready; I think I probably got in when I was in the 6th or 7th grade, and played all through school. I also played sports and never marched in a football band before Northwestern because I was on the high school football team.
Why didn’t you pursue the sports side at Northwestern?
Because I was so bad. I was successful in high school sports more because of being a little smart than being a gifted athlete. I ended up being the quarterback on the football team and the playmaker guard on the basketball team because I could remember the plays. I couldn’t even begin to match the caliber of players at the college level, but I loved sports.
Well you’ve certainly been successful as a band director. What advice do you have for younger people who are seeking that kind of success?
I’ve had an awful lot of good luck and nice breaks. There is one thing about myself that seems different from some of the people I’ve associated with; I seem to change emphasis every four or five years, whereas some people in this profession have had a particular goal in mind from as long ago as I can remember them, and they have pretty much stayed on that track.
I’ve worn a lot of different hats in the short time I’ve been working. For example, the year Mr. Bainum retired I went through a period of real excitement arranging for the band and turned out a number of rather large pieces. Now only in recent months I’m picking it up again because some things are starting to be published from that group that was done so long ago – the Bach, the transcription of Night on Bald Mountain, and a number of others.
Also, I was not the person who pioneered the idea of the wind ensemble but I was one of the very first to devote major interest to it and make it a part of a major university program. In 1956 we started an ensemble group at Northwestern that was separate from the rest of the band. With the wind ensemble I went through a period of time when I spent a great deal of energy and effort uncovering and promoting new band music. We premiered a number of things, in a sense we commissioned them, without funds, by asking composers to write a piece for us in return for our copying the parts for them.
There was a period of time when the marching band had to be foremost in my mind. I was excited about it, worked extremely hard, and was determined to accomplish certain things. Once that goal was achieved, I must say that we have not been terribly innovative since – the formula has continued to work for us very successfully. Oh, maybe we’re innovative, but we’re not pioneering anymore.
Then there’s the time I’ve been so involved with the Northshore Band and the whole community band movement. There was another period when I did small ensembles: octets, nonets, double quintets.
I don’t know, maybe I just can’t keep my mind on one thing for long.
When you add these new things you don’t necessarily give up the others do you?
No, no, I think we just put the emphasis in one direction and take the others along. There’s never been a period of any longer than a year where I went without arranging something, for instance. So to get back to your question, "What should a young person do?" I’d suggest that he should stay flexible.
To have this good luck you say you’ve had, doesn’t one need a large reservoir of talent? Otherwise you may get the lucky break, but you’re going to flop.
Well sure, but I think the talent is something that just an awful lot of people have. I think there are as many truly talented musicians who are not involved in music-making as there are who are busy in music. I think the thing that sets apart leaders in our field are things that are, strictly speaking, not musical at all. Most of the people who succeed in band or orchestra conducting have qualities that would make them reasonably successful in business, or in the sciences, or in the trades.
What are those qualities?
Salesmanship, selling yourself is very important – selling your ideas, speaking well in public. Self confidence, being convinced that what you’re saying on the podium or in the classroom is right – even when you make the mistakes that everyone does who is human – and being able to convince others that you believe what you say. Just sheer energy is important. I’m 50 years old and I’m watching people fall away, changing professions, or going into semi-retirement. My wife and others often ask how long I can continue at the present pace; but I don’t feel that it’s a particularly fast pace. It’s just the way I do things, and it’s the way everybody does who is really excited about the band business. They carry a lot of activities at one time and seem to have the energy to bring it off. So energy, good health, and enthusiasm are all important.
Is there any way to keep from burning out? Maybe that’s why you keep shifting from one enthusiasm to the other. Is that part of what keeps you going?
Well, I don’t know. I think there’s some kind of fresh pasture there all the time. I’m the same way with hobbies. I go into each one with such enthusiastic interest and it lasts such a short time that it’s almost discouraging sometimes; and yet I will come back with renewed interest. My wife and I do many of those things together. We were avid stamp collectors for about five years, and now it’s sort of a dormant hobby. There is always something that has occupied our interest – picture matting, painting, woodworking – and as a consequence neither one of us has ever been bored. If you weren’t here tonight I would be busy at something, either as my vocation or avocation, because every night has to be filled with something.
Do you think life is long enough to satisfy all these interests?
I’m sure it isn’t. I see so many things I want to do. Maybe that’s good. Maybe that’s what’s nice about the job I have. I don’t feel I’m anywhere near finished. There’s plenty to do.
When you work with other groups, what problems do you see repeatedly?
Each teacher and each conductor is really an individual personality, and it’s within that personality that the band has either its successes or its problems. Two things often do stand out as general weaknesses. The first is musical – the failure to recognize the things that don’t sound like music. A good conductor must be able to hear what is going on, while it is going on, and suggest what to do to change it. So many of our people are well-trained to read the score, and well-trained to lead with a baton; but they are not really well-trained to hear what’s going on and change it. As a consequence some basically unmusical, inflexible, and unnuanced (here I come back to Mr. Bainum’s theories) things continue to happen. The other thing is personal. A lot of potentially wonderful teachers aren’t doing a very good job because they are too frustrated by all of the mechanical and personal things that can get in the way. A band director must enjoy what he’s doing, be head-over-heels in love with it, so he can work around the technical problems and push through to the job of having fun and making music.
What do you look for when reviewing new music?
Certainly the elements of good music as we’ve all had them described to us: correctness of approach to writing harmony, counterpoint that makes sense, contrast of textures and varieties of keys and rhythms – that sort of thing. But you can get shot down on that too. I always think of The Joy of Music, in which Leonard Bernstein wrote how a Beethoven symphony fails to qualify on all these "rules of good music." I like to see something that allows the solo instruments of the band to be heard and helps to develop the interest of the particularly talented players. Until one has a lot of experience with music, I suspect you look mostly for people you know, the good arrangers who present a consistent challenge. If they say with the first ten measures that a work is grade III, it’s grade III in the last ten measures too. And they also make things happen musically, with phrases, and form, and style.
After these many years of looking, how much really good music do you expect to find? Is it a surprise when a good piece comes along?
I don’t think it’s as big a surprise as it was 10 or 15 years ago. There are more good things all the time, even though there still aren’t nearly enough. If I look back on how I have spent my time and look forward to how I’m going to spend it in the future, I think almost everything has to do with the search for good things to perform. And that isn’t a pessimistic view at all; it is very optimistic in that we have a much larger repertoire now to choose from than we had a while ago. We started late with the band, and have a lot of ground to make up. Before we have a large and reliable body of wonderful things to play we’re going to have to go through things that aren’t as good to play in order to find them. Those interested in the band have done a good job of encouraging talented people to write original compositions and arrangements for band. At the university we now have an immense library of music for the band, and I would think that fully 5% of it is substantial music. The difference is that today it’s 5% of a much larger body than it was a few years ago. So we’re on our way.
You’ve done a lot of composing and arranging yourself.
I’m a far better arranger than I am a composer. I majored in composition at Northwestern, with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, and it taught me that I shouldn’t compose. I’ve written down a lot of notes, but I don’t feel I’ve composed much that’s of lasting value. However, out of it I’ve become a better analyst of other composers, and maybe a little better score reader, and somewhat skilled as an arranger. I often specify an exact number of players on a part, one of the ways I reflect my background as a composer and conductor. I may have a little more intimate knowledge of what a clarinet section sounds like with two on a stand and one on a stand and four on a stand than the person who is writing but not conducting at the same time. I think you can get a great deal of color contrast by varying the number of players. I also like to include the color instruments, even though I realize that this puts some of the things I arrange out of reach for some bands. Even in a simple little arrangement like Sarabande and Polka, I call for soprano sax, English horn, and muted cornet, all playing at the same time. It’s quite possible that the first school band we see won’t have any of those instruments, but nevertheless I think those are colors we need if we’re going to rise above a certain level of performance and expression.
I’m not through writing; it just is going to take a little rearranging of my schedule to do it on a more regular basis again. With the children grown up, married, and gone, it is more fun to be sitting at the table again writing arrangements.
Weren’t you and your wife childhood sweethearts?
Yes, Marietta and I were baptized together. We were born and raised in the same town and went to the same church, the same school. We’ve always been a close family and we get along very well – we like each other. One of the turning points was the year we lived together in Europe when I was on leave. I saw more of the family in that year than I might have on evenings and weekends for a whole lifetime.
Usually musicians are asked if their children play. I’m sure you get a lot of that, as well as questions about how much parents should push their kids.
I don’t know if you should push or you should pull. I think you should influence. Both of our children took piano lessons in the prep piano department at Northwestern, but neither one of them has continued to play the piano. Bruce played oboe, marched sousaphone, and was a member of my band staff at Northwestern. He’s now a lawyer in Chicago, and has said many times that learning pride in his work and attention to detail as a member of the band staff was one of the best life preparations he had. Megan teaches first grade in Prospect Heights and plays horn with the Northshore Band.
To say that children should do what they want to do is a great percentage of the problem of society today. To think that the child will naturally take to music any more than he would naturally take to Sunday school or to physical exercise I think is naive. At least those who do take to it naturally are far outnumbered by those who don’t because music takes discipline and no child is ready for that. I’m glad my mother and dad kept pushing me.
How did they do it without turning you against music?
I don’t know, except that they were able to convince me of everything they wanted me to do. I had enough trust and faith in them that music was just another thing to be done the same way. That might be the answer, maybe the problem is that when it comes to music, parents try to be different, not the same kind of disciplinarians as when they run everything else that affects the child.
One of the things that’s taken you away from home and the family has been the all-state bands, and you’ve done a tremendous number of them through the years. How should an all-state conductor be treated?
Carefully. I don’t believe an all-state conductor is any different from any other kind of guest conductor. A conductor is an artist, and I don’t mean that in a snobbish way at all. A person who has spent time perfecting what he does and has presumably spent many hours studying the scores, determining the program, and getting ready psychologically, should be greeted with the same sort of enthusiasm and preparation. And I must say that in more than nine out of ten cases that’s exactly what happens. There is someone who greets you at the airport, gets you to your hotel room, takes you to dinner, and makes sure you get to the first meeting. It is only occasionally when the local hosts are perhaps too busy with the details of organizing the event, that they forget the conductor is a special person. "Special" only in the sense that he controls the destiny of the musicians for the next 48 hours, and that if he is not rested or happy or given the tools with which to work he cannot produce the expected result. I suppose the hidden discourtesy, one that happens more often than it should, is the failure to prepare the students – either to prepare them psychologically to be under the discipline of a gifted conductor or to prepare them on the parts they’re going to play. It is sad that from time to time there really is no purpose in the visit of a guest conductor because the parts have not been prepared and there is little or nothing the conductor can do. Although that doesn’t happen very often, it happens far too often.
With the New Mexico All-State Band, one thing you did was to put lyrics to one of the phrases to show them what was going on in the music, assigning characters to the antecedent and the consequent of the phrase. They understood that it was a conversation, and that the melody was being passed around the band. And in the concert the next day, it was coming through, they were making music. How many of those kinds of things do you have?
Well, that’s just what they are — they’re tricks, they’re gimmicks to make the teaching come across a little easier. Oh, there are hundreds of them I am sure. Not just mine, but hundreds that others are using. I think one of the best short cuts we have is verbalizing or vocalizing, singing the line, using non-sense syllables, or rhythmic sight-singing or the verbalization that you heard me do. Some of the old master teachers used to pick up their cornet or their violin and play it for the students; when I’m on the podium I use my voice to replace the instrument and do the same thing. You can lose them in that process if you stop every third bar and sing something for them. Pretty soon they don’t want to hear you sing any more. You have to find as many ways to make a point as you can. I don’t think there is anything less interesting than saying the same thing the same way over and over again. A common rehearsal technique is to stop and correct, stop and go down the line and have the next person play and the next person. Although I’ve done my share of that, I always dislike myself in the morning after I’ve done it because there are so many better ways to teach. I like to teach by example, by singing or saying or playing what I want.
Do you recall any particular things that have worked especially well for you?
I think the most effective single thing I’ve used in recent years has been my insistence that we tune up and warm up in a particular, structured way. I start with the pitch F (because that’s the nastiest of all tones to tune) and then work around it diatonically. The merit of it has not been so much the warm-up and the tune-up that everybody in the room seems to hear, but the fact that it brings the ensemble under total control. Sometimes after over two hours of rehearsing when the band has had a break for 20 minutes and they come back and start dealing with the warm-up and tune-up again, I’ve had some of the conductors come in and say, "My goodness, aren’t they warm enough by now?" They don’t understand that the whole purpose of using it again after the break is to get the break to end in the student’s minds and get their attention back to the discipline of the music. If we can get players to listen to each other, to relate their role with the role of everyone else in the room, we can cancel out a lot of the problems that we would normally have to stop and rehearse.
I think sometimes it’s good for the conductor to imagine he has an adjudicator’s form in front of him with the various categories like tone, intonation, balance. He might spend consecutive rehearsals working on those fundamentals: one day nearly all of the time is devoted to the matter of balance, and another you don’t think of anything but tone quality. All the other fundamentals will improve at the same time, but one of the objectives is to get the young people to think of the fundamentals. Every note they play on a given day is subject to scrutiny as to its pitch, the next day as to the beauty of its quality, the next day as to its nuance or shading. Sometimes it’s too much to ask for them to remember all of that in one sitting, but you can stress one thing at a time. I’ve seen conductors work with a two-hour period divided into four quarters, like a football game. One quarter they talk about pitch, another about balance. And there are many conductors who talk about many things at one time, without any special emphasis. Of all the things I’ve used, the warm-up/tune-up has been the most effective because it teaches that we should listen and watch and shows how we relate to those around us.
Is this printed or do you just describe it as you go? I have it printed out. It’s just a little exercise out of the Arban’s book with some adjustments that have developed over the years. But the students don’t have to read the music and that’s very important. Their minds are concentrating completely on the sounds they’re producing, the attack they’re playing, the pitch they’re involved with, the volume they have, the blend they’re making. And they can look right straight at you the moment they’re doing it. I find some of the most expressive results coming out of those warm-ups because when they are playing a piece later they see my same gesture meaning the same thing in a new role.
When you’re rehearsing how do you figure out what to repair and what to leave alone? Are there priorities?
There are rehearsals when I feel like I’ve spent the whole time chipping away at things that don’t matter. There’s no magic formula. To be efficient, the most important thing is to know your people. Obviously you rehearse a group like the Northshore Band that meets once a week for two hours much differently than you would rehearse a university band that meets four hours a week, or a high school band that meets 40 minutes every day. You asked the key question – what do you try to get done and what do you let go? I know the personnel of the Northshore Band so well now that I know that just by uncovering the mistake, the mistake will be corrected. There’s no need to go back and prove that you can do it if you’ve had the opportunity to scowl at somebody when they did it wrong. With a group you don’t know as well there has to be a period of time in which you make sure they will make the corrections once you have pointed them out.
But correcting is really not the most efficient way to rehearse. It is best to have in your head the sounds you want and to conduct those sounds right from the start, guiding the performer so the mistake is never made in the first place. That’s idealistic, but it certainly is more efficient.
Of course, the most efficient "rehearsal technique" is the score study that precedes the rehearsal. This nit-picking rehearsing you and I have seen is the result of the conductor really not knowing the score. The conductor will spend time pecking away at something he knows is safe because he doesn’t know what else to rehearse.
Let’s talk about score study. What technique do you use?
My first look at a score is just flipping through, like picking a magazine off the rack to see if you want to buy it. It’s the look-through that tells you if you’re interested in looking any further. The second time around is where I try to see something of the shape of the piece – the forms, the architecture, the overall design, not the bricks and the screws and the hinges. It’s at this point that I need to know something about the instrumentation and its demands – whether it’s suitable or worthwhile or perhaps too difficult or too easy. I might also stop long enough to see something of the ingredients, at least the harmonic language or the contrapuntal complexities, but I would not analyze it carefully. Then the next time through I’m starting to look section by section. That’s when I do my sightsinging of the score. I really believe that to study a score thoroughly you have to sing every line. I’m not the first one to say this by any means, and I was not taught it at Northwestern, mind you. I just came to it by teaching and by talking with people I think read scores well. It is during this third stage that I do any detailed marking that is necessary. I believe in marking as much as you have to, or as little as you can get by with. The last look is when I do a performance sitting at my desk. Of course I may come back many times after that. I think some of the nicest moments the conductor has is when he digs out a score he thinks he knows and finds out there are many new things to know about it. I think that’s fun.
How long does this process take?
It’s very gratifying and rewarding, but it is not something you can do quickly. Most young conductors delude themselves if they think there are people who can sight sing a score at tempo the first time and hear all the parts. It’s mostly hard work and careful study.
Let’s assume you’ve selected a score or you know you ‘re going to perform a work sometime, how long before the first rehearsal do you really get serious about the architecture stage, the sight-singing stage, the conducting-at-the-desk stage?
Well, there have been times and there will be times again when that serious moment is 20 minutes before the rehearsal. That’s one of the realities of the college teacher’s life. There are times when we simply don’t have adequate score preparation time. If we had our druthers, we would start studying a year ahead of a performance and accelerate in the last month.
It’s more fun for me to sit and read a score in the evening than it is to read a novel or a magazine, or certainly more fun than to watch a television show. I don’t do it nearly as much as I would like, but right now I am studying some scores with no performance date in mind, with at least one all marked and virtually committed to memory. But that’s a rarity.
Does score study apply to a grade III piece as much as a grade VI piece?
I think that’s terribly important. The person who believes he shouldn’t study as much because the music is easier is not really being fair to the level of the player he controls. Many dull band rehearsals are the result of the director not having studied the score and not knowing what to say to the youngsters about the music. I feel strongly about this. Last December at the Mid-West Clinic I gave a lecture to the Marine band directors and was talking about how important it is to prepare a score. One young officer raised his hand and said, "Well, obviously you have never had to play just reviews over and over again where all you play is a march and all you have is a cornet copy." I really admonished him on this, and said, "If that were my situation and I had all of the labor that you have available, I’d have those marches copied out in full score so I could study them and know what’s going on, so I could teach the band to play that march properly." I think there is no excuse for asking the band members to tell you what they have written in their part.
Let’s talk about the future. You came into this Northwestern job a long time ago. Many of your colleagues who have held their jobs for 29 years are now retiring at 65, and you’re 50 and not even close. Where do you go from here?
Next Fall I’m going to be much more involved with teaching music education. This is something I haven’t done. I don’t have a music education degree, and I’ve never taught in the public schools; but I’ve had so many experiences with school age children at festivals and contests that I have many ideas I think are worth hearing. It will be another new challenge for me. I am also looking forward to having more time to write, some in words and some in notes. I’d like to try to figure out what it is I’m trying to say and get it said in both areas. Publication is important for me right now, not just financially because it doesn’t amount to that much, but it’s really gratifying to see these pieces I’ve been using in manuscript begin to come out in print so others can have them. Once you see the first one it’s like popcorn, you can’t stop. Just today I found myself saying, "I ought to rearrange the Bach." It is 25 years old and there are a lot of things I can improve. I thought today as I was playing it how sure I was in 1953 that nobody could do it better than I could and how I had it exactly the way it ought to be, but every year since I’ve found things I want to change.
What else have you learned about yourself in this past quarter century?
Not enough, I’m afraid. I’m still as pompous as I was when I was 23 years old. You learn your limitations and you also learn that you are very good at certain things. I guess I’ve learned that many people have been awfully nice to me at the University and in the community band too. The Northshore Band has added a separate dimension to my life. It’s taken me places I couldn’t have gone otherwise; it’s given me opportunities to do music I couldn’t do otherwise; and we’ve reached people through the band that we couldn’t reach other ways. It really is a blessing – I don’t know how I could express it in any other form. I think that particular community band – the combination of personalities and friendships that have been in it – is better than any kind of a social club or church involvement or any other kind of activity that I might have had to replace it with. It has been a wonderful thing.
Does the band director who is teaching in a school owe anything to the community?
I think he has a moral obligation to uphold standards of music in the community. The odds are that the band director is one of the three best musicians in town, and he may even be the best. To simply say that he has no responsibility beyond his six or eight hours in the classroom is terribly unfortunate. If he has a special gift that others haven’t had bestowed on them he ought to share that, move it into the community, uplift their standards, and lead the way. I get peeved with young band directors who tell me about their town being a "cultural desert" as though they didn’t have anything to do with it. I want to say, "Why don’t you get a hose in your hand and start to run some water and bring something to fruition there?" I think there is a very definite obligation. It may be in adult education, community music making, a wider involvement in their churches or service clubs, or just in seeing that cultural events come to town.
Well, you certainly seem to enjoy everything you do, but I suspect you’ll always be involved somehow in conducting a group.
Yes, I really do enjoy it. You know I’ve conducted the Waa-Mu show [a student Broadway-type musical production] all these years. Not too long ago one of our students was conducting the show chorus and being a bit of a cynic, saying he was glad to take the money for doing it but he wasn’t happy in his job. Just as I was standing on the steps ready to go into the pit, he said, "Mr. Paynter, why in the world do you do something as corny as this show when you have so much to do? Why do you want to do it?" And I had to think before I answered, to tell him how much I loved what I was doing; how much fun it was to control a show from the pit, to run the show just as standing on the tower you run the marching band, and standing on the podium you run the concert band. I suppose it’s a little bit of an ego trip but it’s just such great fun. I love it.