Glenn Cliffe Bainum

Northwestern University Band circa 1928.

Glenn Cliffe “Rusty” Bainum was born on January 6, 1888 in Olney, Illinois, the son of Osci J. Bainum, a teacher and administrator, and Ida Elizabeth Cliffe Bainum. His involvement in band began at the early age of ten as a trombone and upright alto horn player in the Paxton Silver Cornet Band.

Bainum began his college studies in English and engineering science at the University of Illinois, taking a year off before his graduation in 1913 to teach those subjects in Piper City, Momence, and Melvin, Illinois. While a student at the University of Illinois, Bainum played in the band. A. A. Harding, the bandleader, took special notice of Bainum and appointed him first percussionist and bass drummer. Later he named Bainum his first assistant conductor with the Illinois bands. When he graduated in 1913, Bainum taught at West Aurora (Illinois) High School, and after a year there, began serving as Director of Music at Southern Illinois Normal University. He held this position from 1914 to 1922 except for two years during World War I when he served as an officer in the U.S. Army Infantry.

In June 1915, Bainum married Manta Putcamp. Their son, Glenn Jr., was born on July 10, 1933. Glenn and Manta Bainum remained married until her death in November 1962.

From 1922 to 1924, Bainum worked toward completing a B.A. in music at the University of Illinois and then moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be Director of the Music Programs for Grand Rapids’ public schools and junior colleges. In Grand Rapids, Bainum worked under John Beattie, who came to the Northwestern University School of Music to teach in 1925.

At the urging of Peter Christian Lutkin, Dean of the NU Music School, Bainum followed Beattie’s path from Grand Rapids to Evanston in 1926 and became a Professor of Music, Director of Bands, and Director of the men’s and women’s glee clubs at Northwestern.

By 1928, Bainum had turned Northwestern’s 13-member band into an organization boasting more than 100 members and still growing. He taught classes in conducting, band-arranging, instrumentation, and band techniques. Bainum also conducted the orchestra for the WAA-Mu Show (NU’s annual student-written musical production) every year until his retirement.

In addition to his duties at Northwestern, Bainum held many other significant positions in his field and contributed greatly to the musical life of Chicago. Bainum may be best known for his innovative use of charts to teach band members to maneuver in formation on the marching field. It was in 1936, on the field with the All-College Band (which performed at football games at Soldier Field and later became known as the All-Star Band), that Bainum first put into action his idea of band marching at night in elaborate formations that were illuminated by electric lights worn or carried by the musicians.

Bainum’s work with the All-College Band, the North Shore Music Festival, concerts in Grant Park and other Chicago parks, and his various other guest appearances brought him much acclaim, and was as integral to his career as his work at Northwestern. He was Frederick Stock’s Associate Conductor in the North Shore Music Festival, Conductor of the Grant Park Symphonic Band and Conductor of weekly radio programs on Chicago’s WMAQ. From 1942 to 1945, Bainum was Chief of the Overseas Music Branch of Special Services for the U.S. Army. In this post, he was responsible for all music in the European theatre of operations.

In 1953, after 27 years at Northwestern, Bainum retired from the University. Far from having an idle retirement, he soon found himself busy as a guest conductor. From the summer music camp at Interlochen, Michigan, to the New Jersey all-state band, Bainum taught and conducted groups, ranging from grade school to professional in age and abilities, in all 50 states. He also continued to arrange and transcribe music for bands.

During his career Bainum served as president, secretary, and treasurer of the American Bandmasters Association and in 1971 was named honorary life president of that organization. Over the years, Bainum worked with many of the “greats” of the band world, including John Philip Sousa, Edwin Franko Goldman, Arthur Pryor, A. A. Harding, Frank Simon, Henry Fillmore, and Karl King.

Cliffe Bainum died in Evanston on October 4, 1974 at the age of 86.

As a bandleader and as a person, Bainum was warmly regarded by his students and colleagues. John Paynter, Bainum’s assistant during his career and his successor at Northwestern, fondly remarked of Bainum that “the secret was his uncanny capacity for saying just the right thing in such a uniquely original way that, punctuated with the warm intensity of his sparkling eyes and possessing smile, you just knew he meant every word of it. ...He had the capacity for making everyone he met feel a little bigger, to know a little more happiness, to love with more fullness. Glenn Cliffe Bainum truly fulfilled his purpose on this earth.”

(taken from the Northwestern University Archives, Evanston, Illinois)