John Williams can be proclaimed as one of America’s most celebrated conductors, composers and pianists. His adventurous and captivating compositions are recognizable in some of the biggest Hollywood hits and have undoubtedly achieved for him prominence in the film industry. Not only is Williams held in the highest regard in the film industry, but is also admired for his prowess as an orchestral conductor and composer.
Born in New York, on February 8, 1932, as the young legend lunged in to the world of music he learnt a variety of instruments such as the piano, trumpet, trombone and clarinet. As a teenager, Williams headed his own jazz band and became intrigued with putting together different tunes. Before he shifted to Los Angeles in 1948, he had decided that he wanted to become a concert pianist and a few years later he put together his first piano sonata.
He continued his studies at UCLA where he learnt orchestration, while privately polishing his talent under the tutelage of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He professionally took up conducting when he joined the US Air Force and arranged music for their band. He returned from this position in 1955 and landed in Julliard where he further sharpened his skills with the help of Madame Rosina Lhévinne. His career began slowly during this time as he performed in several jazz bands and clubs to earn a living, however, his real break in the film industry soon awaited him.
The 60s marked the beginning of his career in the industry, his initial works were for TV series such as ‘Peter Gunn’. The versatility of his music got him noticed and landed him several large scale composing projects on television for ‘Gilligan’s Island’ and ‘Lost in Space’ and eventually his music reached the theatres in 1958 with a blast, through his first film composition, ‘Daddy-O’. He went on writing unforgettable scores for movies such as ‘Heidi’, ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.
It was impossible not to notice the brilliance of his compositions and eventually he began receiving nominations for Academy Awards for his music in films such as ‘Valley of the Dolls’, ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips’ and won his first for ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. His reputation attracted more and more people from the film industry, in the 70’s he perfected themes for suspense/thriller movies; He produced hauntingly remarkable work for ‘The Poseidon Adventure’, ‘The Towering Inferno’ and especially the classic, ‘Jaws’. The versatility of John Williams’ talent was wonderful, he so smoothly moved on from composing for thrillers to composing for the outrageously famous science fiction series, ‘Star Wars’. His fame was at its zenith during this time, for his work was demanded over and over again for movies that would go on to becoming blockbusters of the era, especially due to their soundtracks. These included the Indiana Jones series for which Williams wrote the main theme named ‘The Raider’s March’, ‘E.T’, ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, ‘Superman Returns’, the Harry Potter Series, ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Schindler’s List’ and countless other renowned movies.
Even though his achievements in the film industry cannot be surpassed, they have not overshadowed his achievements as a conductor. He joined the Boston Pops Orchestra after the legendary Arthur Fiedler and filled his large footsteps very aptly, John Williams managed to maintain the popularity of the orchestra through his tenure. This maestro is the perfect example of brilliance, which not only explains why he has received the most nominations ever for Academy Awards and Oscars but also why he has won several of them.