Born: Jan­u­a­ry 9, 1839, Port­land, Maine.

Died: Ap­ril 25, 1906, Cam­bridge, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

Cremated: Lo­ca­tion of ash­es un­known.



John was the hus­band of Ma­ry Eliz­a­beth Gree­ley.

He grew up in a mu­sic­al fa­mi­ly in Maine. His grand­fa­ther, an ins­tru­ment ma­ker, built the first pipe or­gan in the state of Maine.

His fa­ther and unc­les were all mu­sic teach­ers, and his fa­ther car­ried on the fa­mi­ly mus­ic­al in­stru­ment bus­in­ess. One un­cle was an or­gan­ist, and an­o­ther was a com­pos­er.

In the 1850s, Paine took les­sons in or­gan and com­po­si­tion from Her­mann Kotzsc­hmar, com­plet­ing his first com­po­si­tion, a string quar­tet, in 1855, at age 16.

After his first or­gan re­cit­al in 1857, he be­came or­gan­ist of Port­land’s Hay­dn So­ci­e­ty, and gave a ser­ies of re­cit­als to fund a trip to Eur­ope where he hoped to fur­ther his mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

On ar­riv­al in Eur­ope, Paine stu­died or­gan with Carl Au­gust Haupt, and or­ches­tra­tion with Fried­rich Wil­helm Wie­precht in Berlin.

He toured Eur­ope, giv­ing or­gan re­cit­als, for three years, es­tab­lish­ing a re­pu­ta­tion as an or­gan­ist that would pre­cede his re­turn to the Unit­ed States.

After re­turn­ing to Am­er­ica and set­tling in Bos­ton, Mas­sa­chu­setts, in 1861, he was ap­point­ed Har­vard Un­i­ver­si­ty’s first or­gan­ist and choir­mas­ter.

In this role, Paine of­fered free cours­es in mu­sic ap­pre­ci­a­tion and mu­sic the­o­ry that be­came the core cur­ri­cu­lum for Har­vard’s new­ly formed ac­a­dem­ic mu­sic de­part­ment (the first such de­part­ment in the Un­it­ed States) and his ap­point­ment as Am­er­i­ca’s first mu­sic pro­fes­sor.

Paine was a mem­ber of the Har­vard fa­cul­ty un­til 1905, a year be­fore his death. His well re­ceived 1867 Ber­lin pre­miere of Mass in D gave Paine a re­pu­ta­tion that helped him shape the mu­sic­al in­fra­stru­cture of the Unit­ed States. His cours­es in mu­sic ap­pre­ci­a­tion and mu­sic the­o­ry made the cur­ri­cu­lum of De­part­ment of Mu­sic at Har­vard a mo­del for Am­er­i­can mu­sic de­part­ments.

His ser­vice as a di­rect­or of the New Eng­land Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic (and the lec­tures he gave there) es­tab­lish his place at the root of an in­struc­tion chain that led from George Chad­wick to Ho­ra­tio Parker to Charles Ives.

Paine was guest con­duc­tor of the Bos­ton Sym­pho­ny Or­ches­tra in the fi­nal con­certs of its first sea­son, and his works were au­di­ence fa­vo­rites.

Paine is not­ed for start­ing the Am­er­i­can sym­phon­ic tra­di­tion, and for writ­ing Am­er­i­ca’s first or­a­tor­io (St. Pe­ter), the Cen­ten­ni­al Hymn that (with or­che­stra) op­ened the 1876 Cen­ten­ni­al Ex­po­si­tion in Phi­la­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia.

He was a foun­der of Am­er­i­can Guild of Or­gan­ists, and co-ed­it­ed of Fa­mous Com­pos­ers and their Works.

In 1889, Paine made one of the first mu­sic­al re­cord­ings on wax cyl­in­der with Theo Wan­ge­mann, who was ex­per­i­ment­ing with sound re­cord­ing on the new­ly in­vent­ed phon­o­graph.

Paine was among the in­i­tial group of in­duc­tees in­to the Am­er­i­can Class­ic­al Mu­sic Hall of Fame in 1998.