The world-renowned American composer and conductor John Williams, one of the most popular contemporary creative musicians, was born in 1932 in New York. His father, John Williams Sr., was a jazz drummer and percussionist who played with the Raymond Scott Quintet and went on to record with them soundtracks for Warner Bros cartoon movies. In 1948, the family moved to Los Angeles, where John attended UCLA, Los Angeles City College, and studied composition privately with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, a composer and pianist of Italo-American descent (Florence-born he emigrated to America in 1939, and since 1946 taught composition at the Los Angeles Conservatory, and authored of the music for more than 200 films). Following his service in the Air Force, Williams returned to New York to attend the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied piano with Russian pianist Rosina Lhévinne. While in New York, he also worked as a jazz pianist, both in clubs and on recordings. His subsequent return to Los Angeles marked the start of his impressive career in the film industry, associated with such composers as Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman and Franz Waxman He went on to write music for many television programs in the 1960s, winning four Emmy Awards for his work. In January 1980, Williams became the nineteenth Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra since its founding in 1885 as a section of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, founded four years earlier. He managed it for fourteen successful seasons until December 1993, and after his retirement became its honorary conductor. Williams has appeared as guest conductor with a number of major orchestras, including the London Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with which he has appeared many times at the Hollywood Bowl. John Williams holds honorary degrees from twenty American universities – ‘The Juilliard School’, ‘Berklee College of Music’ in Boston, and more.
Williams has written the themes for the 1984, 1988 and 1996 Summer Olympic games and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games; music for various television programs, as well as many orchestral and instrumental pieces, including: two symphonies; concertos for violoncello (premiered by Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1994); concertos for the flute and the violin recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra; concertos for the clarinet and tuba, and a trumpet concerto, which was premiered by the Cleveland Orchestra and their principal trumpet Michael Sachs in September 1996. His bassoon concerto, The Five Sacred Trees, which was premiered by the New York Philharmonic and principal bassoon player Judith LeClair in 1995, was recorded by Williams with LeClair and the London Symphony Orchestra and was released by Sony Classical. His orchestral composition American Journey was written to accompany the retrospective film titled The Unfinished Journey directed by Steven Spielberg for the 2000 “Millennium” celebrations.
Williams has composed the music for more than one hundred films, including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises; Jurassic Park, Home Alone, Harry Potter, Jaws, Memoirs of a Geisha, Seven Years in Tibet, Fiddler on the Roof and many others. For his film scores, the composer has won: 5 Academy Awards , receiving the first of them in 1971 for Fiddler on the Roof; 4 Golden Globes, 20 Gramys, 7 BAFTA Awards and 2 Emmys. He has been nominated multiple times for Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy. Recordings of his film scores and other works have been released by the Sony Classical label. The soundtrack album for the original Star Wars film – now known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope – featuring the film’s main theme, has sold more than four million copies, making it one of the most successful non-pop albums in recording history. John Williams’ film themes are vivid and emblematic for each film title. Moreover, the music to Steven Spielberg’s movie E.T.: The Extraterrestrial is among the very few instances in the history of cinema, where film sequences (the chase and the final farewell) have been edited to match the musical ideas of the composer. Williams’ music utilizes various intertwining compositional techniques characteristic of the twentieth century, but its most salient feature is represented by his peculiar neo-romantic leaning, inspired by the massive orchestral sonorities and leitmotif devices in the music from the last decades of the nineteenth century (Richard Wagner, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, etc. .)
“John Williams has written the soundtrack to our lives. Note by note… his genius for marrying music with movies has elevated the art form to symphonic levels and inspired generations of audiences to be enriched by the magic of the movies.” (Sir Howard Stringer, chairman of AFI’s board of trustees upon presenting John Williams with the Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony on 9 June 2016.).