One of my favorite Quakers -though he doesn’t call himself a Friend -is John Maynard. His lightness of spirit has always been a delight for me.
John is a bagpiper, calligrapher and sign-painter. He plays bagpipes in the New York University marching band and in New York City parks. His pipes include Scottish Cauld-Wind Pipes; Parlour Pipes; and Scottish Highland Three-Drone War Pipes. (He has renamed the War Pipes the Peace Pipes). His repertoire includes Scottish and Irish marching tunes and airs with the NYU band, and hymns, Broadway, pop, horas, protest and Mexican songs on his own. It also features “Merrily Danced the Quaker’s Wife”. John has performed for many groups, protests and marches, among them the War Resisters League, Gays Against Guns, and Queens St. Patrick’s Day; in NYC hospitals; and in Dominica, Italy and Turkey. He has also played his bagpipes at Fifteenth Street Meeting, the Fifteenth Street Shelter and Sing Sing Prison with visiting Friends. When he plays, he enjoys people’s surprise. He has used his calligraphy to create numerous Quaker wedding certificates. He has also painted signs for dozens of Friends Meetinghouses in the United States and England and for many businesses.
John is a member of Fifteenth Street Meeting in New York City. His mother had graduated from Swarthmore and had told him about Quakers. He began attending Fifteenth Street Meeting in 1956 and joined in 1964. He doesn’t call himself a Friend because he feels he doesn’t fit Quaker standards. He is also concerned with Friends wealth, lack of integration and attitudes toward gay and lesbians. If asked, however, he will respond that he is a member of Fifteenth Street Meeting. John feels a connection between his Quakerism and art when “the painting, lettering or music makes people feel better, more grateful and positive, get proper directions to a Meetinghouse or celebrate a wedding”. He was also active in the Free Speech Movement and VISTA. As well, he was a conscientious objector, performing two years of public service by videotaping student teachers in schools for their self-analysis. He continues to wash dishes at the Catholic Worker St. Joseph House.
I remember once being upset about something at Fifteenth Street Meeting and running into John in nearby Union Square. He was playing his bagpipes. He tootled and clowned and didn’t ask me what was wrong. Cheered me up completely!
For a video of John (in platinum wig) playing “Santa Baby” at Fifteenth Street Meeting go to: