The Kennedy Center

John Williams

Video and Audio

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    Steven Reineke previews Home Alone: 25th Anniversary Film with Live Orchestra



Biography

John Williams, born in 1932, is an American composer, conductor, and pianist. He is probably best known for writing the scores for the movies Star Wars and Jaws and the themes for several Olympic Games. He also was the conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra from 1980 to 1993 and remains that orchestra’s Laureate Conductor. He has won numerous Academy and Grammy Awards for his compositions and was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 2004.

Born on Long Island, New York, Williams and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1948. Williams later attended UCLA. Williams later entered the Julliard School in New York City and studied piano, working on the side as a jazz pianist in New York’s clubs.
After Julliard, he returned to Los Angeles, where he became an arranger and composer in film studios. Williams became known for his versatility in composing jazz, symphonic, and piano music.

In 1974, director Steven Spielberg asked him to compose music for Spielberg’s directorial debut, The Sugarland Express. They worked together again the next year on Jaws. That score earned Williams an Academy Award for original composition. The two collaborated again on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Spielberg recommended Williams to director George Lucas, who hired Williams to create the score for Star Wars. For his work on that movie, Williams won another Academy Award for Best Original Score. He later composed music for the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and for several subsequent Indiana Jones films. He also composed music for the first three Harry Potter films.

His work can be characterized as having been inspired by the large-scale orchestral music of the 19th century. His compositions also include a number of concert pieces for an individual instrument and orchestra.

John Williams