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  • Born

    8 February 1932 (age 85)

  • Born In

    New York, United States

John Towner Williams (born February 8, 1932) is an American composer, conductor and pianist. In a career that spans six decades, Williams has composed many of the most famous film scores in history, including those for Jaws, Star Wars saga, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones films, Jurassic Park, Hook, Schindler's List, and Harry Potter 1-3. In addition, he has composed theme music for four Olympic Games, NBC Nightly News, and numerous television series and concert pieces. He served as the principal conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra from 1980 to 1993, and is now the orchestra's laureate conductor.

Williams is a five-time winner of the Academy Award. With 45 Academy Award nominations, Williams is, together with composer Alfred Newman, the second most nominated individual after Walt Disney. He was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2000, and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004.

* 1 Early life and family
* 2 Film scoring
* 3 Conducting and performing
* 4 Pop culture references
* 5 Notable compositions
o 5.1 Film scores
o 5.2 The Olympics
o 5.3 Television themes
o 5.4 Concerti
o 5.5 Celebration pieces and other concert works
* 6 Awards
o 6.1 Grammy awards
o 6.2 Golden Globe Awards
o 6.3 Emmy Awards
o 6.4 Academy Award Nominations (excluding wins)
* 7 Media
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 External links

Early life and family

John Williams was born on February 8, 1932, in Floral Park, New York, the son of Esther and John Williams, Sr., who was a percussionist. In 1948, his family moved to Los Angeles, where he attended North Hollywood High School. He later attended the University of California, Los Angeles and Los Angeles City College, and studied privately with composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In 1952, Williams was drafted into the United States Air Force, where he conducted and arranged music for the Air Force Band as part of his duties.

After his service ended in 1955, Williams moved to New York City and entered Juilliard School, where he studied piano with Rosina Lhévinne. During this time he worked as a jazz pianist at New York's many studios and clubs. He also played for composer Henry Mancini: The session musicians were John Williams on piano, Rolly Bundock on bass, Jack Sperling on drums, and Bob Bain on guitar—the same lineup featured on the "Mr. Lucky" TV series. Williams recorded with Henry Mancini on the film soundtracks of Peter Gunn (1959), Charade (1963), and Days of Wine and Roses (1962). He was known as "Little Johnny Love" Williams in the early 1960s, and served as arranger and bandleader on a series of popular albums with singer Frankie Laine.

Williams was married to actress Barbara Ruick from 1956 until her death on March 3, 1974. They had three children together. One of those children is Joseph Williams, former lead singer for the band Toto; another is Jenny Williams, also a singer, who was born in 1956. He married for a second time on June 9, 1980, to his current wife, Samantha Winslow. Williams is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, the national honorary fraternity for college band members.

Film scoring
John Williams at the Avery Fisher Hall.
John Williams at the Avery Fisher Hall.

While skilled in a variety of twentieth-century compositional idioms, Williams's most familiar style may be described as a form of neoromanticism, inspired by the same large-scale orchestral music of the late 19th century—especially Wagnerian music and its concept of leitmotif—that inspired his film-composing predecessors.

After his studies at Juilliard, Williams returned to Los Angeles and began working as an orchestrator in film studios. Among others, he had worked with composers Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, and Alfred Newman. He was also a studio pianist, performing in scores by composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, and Henry Mancini (for whom he played the opening riff to Peter Gunn). Williams began to compose music scores for television series programs in the late 1950s, eventually leading to Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel. Williams's first major film composition was for the B-movie Daddy-O in 1958, and his first screen credit came two years later in Because They're Young. He soon gained notice in Hollywood for his versatility in composing jazz, piano and symphonic music. He received his first Academy Award nomination for his score to the 1967 film Valley Of The Dolls, and was nominated again in 1969 for Goodbye, Mr. Chips. He won his first Academy Award for his adapted score to the 1971 film Fiddler On The Roof. By the early 1970s, Williams had established himself as a composer for large-scale disaster films, with scores for The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, and The Towering Inferno; the last two films, scored in 1974, borrowing musical cues from each other.

In 1974, Williams was approached by Steven Spielberg to compose the music for his feature directorial debut, The Sugarland Express. The young director had been impressed with Williams's score to the 1969 film The Reivers, and was convinced the composer could provide the sound he desired for his films. They re-teamed a year later for the director's second film, Jaws. Widely considered a classic suspense piece, the score's ominous two-note motif has become nearly synonymous with sharks and approaching danger. The score earned Williams a second Academy Award, his first for an original composition. Shortly afterwards, Williams and Spielberg began preparing for their next feature film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Unusual for a Hollywood production, Spielberg's script and Williams's musical concepts were developed at the same time and were closely linked. During the two-year creative collaboration, they settled on a distinctive five-note figure that functioned both as background music and the communication signal of the film's alien mothership. Williams employed a system of musical hand signals in the film, based on a method invented by Zoltan Kodaly. Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released in 1977.

In the same period, Spielberg recommended Williams to his friend and fellow director George Lucas, who needed a composer to score his ambitious space epic, Star Wars. Williams produced a grand symphonic score in the fashion of Richard Strauss and Golden Age Hollywood composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Max Steiner. Its main theme—"Luke's Theme"—is among the most widely-recognized in motion picture history, and the "Force Theme" and "Princess Leia's Theme" are well-known examples of leitmotif. The film and its soundtrack were both immensely successful, and Williams won another Academy Award for Best Original Score. In 1980, Williams returned to score The Empire Strikes Back, where he famously introduced "The Imperial March" as the theme for Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire. The original Star Wars trilogy concluded with the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, for which Williams's score provided the "Emperor's Theme" and the climactic "Final Duel." Both scores earned Williams Academy Award nominations. It has been noted that the 1942 film The Talk of the Town (film) carries thematic music similar to that found within the Star Wars films.
John Williams conducting the music score to Raiders Of The Lost Ark in the Avery Fisher Hall.
John Williams conducting the music score to Raiders Of The Lost Ark in the Avery Fisher Hall.

Williams worked with director Richard Donner to score the 1978 film Superman. The score's heroic and romantic themes, particularly the main march, the Superman fanfare and the love theme, known as "Can You Read My Mind", would appear in the four subsequent sequel films. For the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Williams wrote a rousing main theme known as "The Raiders's March" to accompany the film's hero, Indiana Jones. He also composed separate themes to represent the Ark of the Covenant, the character Marion and the Nazi villains of the story. Additional themes were featured in his scores to the sequel films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Williams composed an emotional and sensitive score to Spielberg's 1982 fantasy film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The music conveys the film's benign, child-like sense of innocence, particularly with a spirited theme for the freedom of flight, and a soft string-based theme for the friendship between characters E.T. and Elliott. The film's final chase and farewell sequence marks a rare instance in film history, in which the on-screen action was re-edited to conform to the composer's musical interpretation. Williams was awarded a fourth Academy Award for this score.

The 1985 film The Color Purple is the only feature film directed by Steven Spielberg for which John Williams did not serve as composer. The film's producer, Quincy Jones, wanted to personally arrange and compose the music for the project. Williams also did not score Twilight Zone: The Movie, but Spielberg had directed only one of the four segments in that film; the film's music was written by another veteran Hollywood composer, rival Jerry Goldsmith, chosen by lead director and producer John Landis. The Williams-Spielberg collaboration resumed with the director's 1987 film Empire of the Sun, and has continued to the present, spanning genres from blockbuster fluff (1993's Jurassic Park), to somber tragedies (1993's Schindler's List, 2005's Munich), to Eastern-tinged melodramas (2005's Memoirs of a Geisha, eventually helmed by Rob Marshall). Spielberg has said, "I call it an honorable privilege to regard John Williams as a friend."

In 1999 George Lucas launched the first of a series prequels to the original Star Wars Trilogy. Williams was asked to score all three films, starting with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Along with themes from the previous movies, Williams created new themes to be used as leitmotifs in Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). Most notable of these was "Duel of the Fates", an aggressive choral movement utilizing harsh Sanskrit lyrics that broadened the style of music used in the Star Wars films. For Episode II, Williams composed "Across the Stars", a love theme for Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker (mirroring the love theme composed for the second film of the previous trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back). The final installment combined many of the themes created for the entire series, including "The Emperor's Theme", "The Imperial March", "Across the Stars", "Duel of the Fates", "A Hero Falls", "The Force Theme", "Rebel Fanfare", and "Luke's Theme" and "Princess Leia's Theme." Few composers have scored an entire series of this magnitude: The combined scores of all six Star Wars films add up to music that takes a full orchestra more than 14 hours to perform entirely.

In the new millennium, Williams was asked to score the film adaptation of the widely successful young adult's book series, Harry Potter. He went on to score the first three installments of the franchise. As with his Superman theme, the most important theme from Williams' scores for the film adaptations of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, dubbed "Hedwig's Theme", has been used in the fourth and fifth movies in the series (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), scored by Patrick Doyle and Nicholas Hooper respectively. Like the main themes from Star Wars, Jaws, Superman, and Indiana Jones, fans have come to identify the Harry Potter films with Williams' original piece.

In 2006, Superman Returns was released, under the direction of Bryan Singer, best known for directing the first two movies in the X-Men series. Singer did not request Williams to compose a score for the new movie; instead, he employed the skills of X2 composer John Ottman to honorably incorporate Williams' original Superman theme, as well as those for "Lois Lane" and "Smallville." Don Davis performed a similar role for Jurassic Park III, recommended to the producers by Williams himself. (Film scores by Ottman and to a lesser extent Davis are often compared to those of Williams, as both use similar styles of composition.)

Between October 2007 and January 2008, Williams wrote the score to the new film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In February 2008, he spent 12 days with the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra recording the score, and an official soundtrack was released on May 20th, 2008, two days before the film's theatrical release. He will most likely be scoring Steven Spielberg's future projects Lincoln and Interstellar. His agency has confirmed that he will be scoring Lincoln. He has also expressed an interest in composing the score for the seventh and final film in the Harry Potter film series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.. It is reported that Williams will score Jurassic Park IV and Superman: Man of Steel.

Conducting and performing
Williams signing an autograph after a concert
Williams signing an autograph after a concert

From 1980 to 1993, Williams succeeded the legendary Arthur Fiedler as Principal Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. Williams never personally met Fiedler, although he did speak with him on the telephone. His arrival as the new leader of the Pops in the spring of 1980 allowed him to devote part of the Pops' first PBS broadcast of the season to presenting his new compositions for The Empire Strikes Back, in addition to conducting many Fiedler audience favorites.

Williams almost ended his tenure with the Pops in 1984. Considered a customary practice of opinion, some players hissed while sight-reading a new Williams composition in rehearsal. Williams abruptly left the session and turned in his resignation, reportedly due to mounting conflicts with his film composing schedule as well as a perceived lack of discipline in the Pops' ranks, culminating in this latest instance. After entreaties by the management and personal apologies from the musicians, Williams reconsidered his resignation and continued for nine more years. In 1995 he was succeeded by Keith Lockhart, the former associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops.

Williams is now the Laureate Conductor of the Pops, thus maintaining his affiliation with its parent, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), resident of Symphony Hall in the Massachusetts capital. Williams leads the Pops on several occasions each year, particularly during their Holiday Pops season and typically for a week of concerts in May. He conducts an annual Film Night at both Boston Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, where he frequently enlists the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, official chorus of the BSO, to provide a choral accompaniment to films (such as Saving Private Ryan).

Williams makes annual appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and took part as conductor and composer in the orchestra's opening gala concerts for Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003.

Williams has written many concert pieces, including a symphony, Concerto for Horn written for Dale Clevenger, principal hornist of the Chicago Symphony, Concerto for Clarinet written for Michele Zukovsky (Principal Clarinetist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) in 1991, a sinfonietta for wind ensemble, a cello concerto premiered by Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1994, concertos for the flute and violin recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, 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 for Sony Classical by Williams with LeClair and the London Symphony Orchestra.

He is also an accomplished pianist, as can be heard in various scores in which he provides solos, as well as a handful of European classical music recordings.
Stanley Donen (left) and John Williams, Avery Fisher Hall
Stanley Donen (left) and John Williams, Avery Fisher Hall

In addition, in 1985, Williams composed the well-known NBC News theme "The Mission" (which he performs in concert to signal the final encore), "Liberty Fanfare" for the re-dedication of the Statue of Liberty, "We're Lookin' Good!" for the Special Olympics in celebration of the 1987 International Summer Games, and themes for the 1984, 1988, 1996, and 2002 Olympic games. His most recent concert work "Seven for Luck", for soprano and orchestra, is a seven-piece song cycle based on the texts of former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove. "Seven for Luck" was given its world premiere by the Boston Symphony under Williams with soprano Cynthia Haymon.

John Williams also made a rare appearance on the BBC in 1980 to explain what life as a composer is like and how demanding it is to get everything just right.

In April 2004, February 2006, and September 2007, he conducted the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. The initial program was intended to be a one-time special event, and featured Williams' medley of Oscar-winning film scores first performed at the previous year's Academy Awards. Its unprecedented popularity led to two concerts in 2006—fund-raising gala events featuring personal recollections by film directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Continuing demand fueled three more concerts in 2007, which all sold out. These featured a tribute to the musicals of film director Stanley Donen, and had the distinction of serving as the opening event of the New York Philharmonic season.

Pop culture references

* In the Family Guy episode "Brian Does Hollywood", John Williams is presented as a nominee for Best Musical Score in the fictional Adult Movie Awards. Unlike the other nominees, he is shown conducting a 48-piece orchestra.

* In the Family Guy sixth season opener "Blue Harvest" (the working title of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi), John Williams is seen conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, performing "The Force Theme" from Star Wars, as well as the theme for The People's Court. Later, "Luke" (played by Chris) finds the charred remains of Williams and the orchestra at his burning homestead and laments that the rest of the show will have to be scored by Danny Elfman, who is immediately beheaded.

* In the 1995 Simpsons episode "The Springfield Connection", Homer complains about a Springfield Pops performance of music from Star Wars by exclaiming, "They're butchering the classics! John Williams must be rolling around in his grave."

* In the Roy Zimmerman song "Guns In Space," John Williams is mentioned in the line "or they just don't like a war for which John Williams does the score."

The Boston Pops Orchestra was founded in 1885 as a subsection of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), founded four years earlier. Careful examination of the rosters of “pops" or “Festival" orchestras, which are associated with a co-resident symphony orchestra in the same community, shows that the principal players of a “pops" ensemble usually hold the post of assistant or associate principal of the “parent" ensemble. In general parlance, the Boston Pops is described as: “The Boston Players, a 12-member ensemble founded in 1964. These arrangements, and a similar one with the Tanglewood Festival provide year-round employment for the musicians.

Other cities have founded their own "pops" orchestras, but the Boston Pops remains the most well-known.

* 1 History of the Pops
* 2 POPSearch
* 3 High School Sing-Off
* 4 Music Directors
* 5 See also
* 6 External links

History of the Pops

In 1881, Henry Lee Higginson, the founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, wrote of his wish to present in Boston "concerts of a lighter kind of music." The Boston Pops Orchestra was founded to present this kind of music to the public, with the first concert performed in 1885. Called the "Promenade Concerts" until 1900, these performances combined light classical music, tunes from the current hits of the musical theater, and an occasional novelty number. Allowing for some changes of taste over the course of a century, the early programs were remarkably similar to the Boston Pops programs of today.
The Pops performing at the Hatch Shell on July 4, 2005
The Pops performing at the Hatch Shell on July 4, 2005
Keith Lockhart in 2003
Keith Lockhart in 2003

The Boston Pops Orchestra did not adopt its own official conductor until 1930, when Arthur Fiedler began a fifty-year tenure as the Pops conductor. Fiedler's career as the conductor of the Pops brought worldwide acclaim to the orchestra. He was unhappy with the reputation of classical music as being solely for elite, aristocratic, upper-class audiences. Fiedler made efforts to bring classical music to wider audiences. He instituted a series of free concerts at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, a riverside public park along the Charles River. Along with his insistence that the Pops Orchestra would play popular music alongside well-known classical pieces, Fiedler opened up a new niche in popular culture that encouraged popularization of classical music.

Under his direction, the Boston Pops allegedly made more commercially available recordings than any other orchestra in the world, with total sales of albums, singles, tapes, and cassettes exceeding $50 million. The orchestra's first recordings were made in July 1935 for RCA Victor, including the first complete recording of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Of the many musical pieces produced over the years, the Pops' most famous and popular work is Fiedler's production of Leroy Anderson's composition "Sleigh Ride". They made their first high fidelity recording on June 20, 1947, of Gaite Parisienne (based on the music of Jacques Offenbach), and recorded the same music seven years later in stereophonic sound, their first venture in multitrack recording.

Fiedler's respectful easy-listening arrangements on Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Play the Beatles, released in 1971, opened many eyes to the musical qualities of Lennon and McCartney.

Fiedler is most widely remembered in Boston for having begun the annual tradition of the Fourth of July Pops concert and fireworks display on the Esplanade, one of the best-attended Independence Day celebrations in the country with regular estimated attendance of 200,000–500,000 people. (This event is organized by Boston's Fourth of July celebration under the leadership of David Mugar.) Also during Fiedler's tenure, the Pops and local public television station WGBH developed a series of weekly televised broadcasts recorded during the Pops' regular season in Symphony Hall, Evening at Pops.

After Fiedler's death in 1979, the conductorship of the Boston Pops was taken over by Academy Award-winning composer John Williams in 1980. Williams continued the Pops' tradition of bringing classical music to a wider audiences, initiating the annual "Pops-on-the-Heights" concerts at Boston College and adding his own considerable library of well-known movie soundtracks (including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies) to its repertoire.

Keith Lockhart assumed the post of principal Pops conductor in 1995. Lockhart continues to conduct the Boston Pops today, adding a touch of flamboyance and a flair for the dramatic to his performances. Williams remains the Laureate Conductor of the Pops and conducts a week of Pops concerts most years. Lockhart brought in numerous pop-music acts to play with the orchestra, including Ben Folds, Rockapella, Guster, My Morning Jacket, Aimee Mann and Elvis Costello.

Music Directors:

* 1930-1979 Arthur Fiedler
* 1980-1993 John Williams
* 1993-Present Keith Lockhart

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