John Williams is, without question, one of the most gifted and distinguished American composers of the late 20th century. His output, interestingly, is not focused on the vehicle of popular song, per se, but on an equally popular facet of the musical mainstream, that of movie music. Movies and their music, whose death knell was sounded loud and clear in the early days of the emerging television vehicle, have simply grown through the years.
The Academy Awards presentations had created a veritable frenzy of public interest and an attendant new record of TV viewers of the big doings in LA's Shrine Auditorium. The soundtracks for the most popular motion pictures now consistently make the top of the best-selling charts.
John Williams is a major contributor to the movie success story, having composed the music for more than 75 films, including Jaws, Indiana Jones Trilogy, Amistad and Superman. His movie theme and soundtrack material reads like a "best of " list of American motion picture classics of the last couple of generations.
His name is to be found prominently in the credits for Seven Years in Tibet, The Lost World, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, ET (The Extraterrestrial), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Born on the Fourth of July, Empire of the Sun, Nixon, Sabrina - Teen Witch, Saving Private Ryan and most notably, the Star Wars epics.
John Williams' labors in music have resulted in 36 Academy Award nominations. He has amassed a living room full of five Oscars, nearly 20 Grammy awards and several gold and platinum records as well. His soundtrack album for Star Wars has sold over four million copies.
New York born John Williams moved west to Los Angeles in 1948, where he attended UCLA and studied composition with the noted Mario Castelnuova-Tedesco. Following duty in the Air Force, he returned to New York to attend the Juilliard School, studying piano with Rosina Lhevinne. While in the east, he worked as a jazz pianist in local clubs and on jazz recordings. Later, he succumbed to the lure of California and its world of moviemaking and became active working with such studio composers as Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman and Franz Waxman.
In addition to his almost frantic schedule of writing for movies and television, John Williams feels equally at home in the concert hall and has written many concert pieces, including two symphonies as well as concertos for flute, tuba, violin, clarinet and cello. In the late 1990ís, he composed a bassoon concerto commissioned by The New York Philharmonic Orchestra and a trumpet concerto, commissioned by The Cleveland Orchestra.
Williams is the composer of the NBC News theme, "The Mission," "Liberty Fanfare," composed for the rededication of The Statue of Liberty; and themes for the Summer Olympic Games of 1984, 1988 and 1996. He is also the composer of the NFL Network Themes.
Extremely active as a guest conductor with notable ensembles, Williams has batoned the Boston Pops and Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestras on tours of the United States and Japan. He has also guest-conducted The London Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Chicago Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Pittsburgh Symphony and The San Francisco Symphony. He also holds honorary doctorates from 14 American Universities.