Musical Focus: John Williams (1932- )

John Williams
John Williams is America’s best known and most successful film composer. He has received Academy Awards for "Fiddler on the Roof” (musical score), "Jaws” (Best Original Score), "Star Wars” (musical score), and "ET, The Extraterrestrial” (musical score). In addition, he composed the music for "Valley of the Dolls,” Good-bye Mr. Chips,” "Cinderella Liberty,” "Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” "The Empire Strikes Back,” "Raiders of the Lost Ark,” "Home Alone,” "Jurassic Park, " the "Harry Potter” films, "The Towering Inferno,” and "Midway.” He has won five Academy Awards, and 21 Grammy Awards, making for a most successful career.

Williams was born in New York in 1932. He attended UCLA and the Julliard School of Music. He entered the music-movie industry in 1950. In 1980 he succeeded Arthur Fiedler as conductor of the Boston Pops. He is well known to anyone who has watched the Olympics for his "Olympic Fanfare and Theme,” composed for the Los Angeles games, "The Olympic Spirit,” composed for NBC’s coverage of the 1988 games, and "Summon the Heroes,” composed for the Atlanta 1996 games in Atlanta.

Three Recommended CDs
1. Summon the Heroes: John Williams with the Boston Pops performing his Olympic themes, and similar music.
2. Williams on Williams: The Classic Spielberg Scores: Williams again with the Boston Pops performing his recognizable themes from ET, Jurassic Park, Hook, Jaws, and more
3. John Williams: 40 Years of Film Music: For all of his fantastic music

Lesson Opportunities
1. Music Appreciation: With just a little exposure and perhaps some collaborative discussions regard the instrumentation and arrangements, the students can easily enjoy success in identifying this music.

2. Music-Language Arts: The music is extremely expressive, which makes it a rich source for composing descriptive paragraphs and comparative essays. On the Summon the Heroes CD the triumphant spirit of Rozza’s "Parade of the Charioteers” could be compared to the more somber mood of Berstein’s "Olympic Hymn” or Vangelis’s "Conquest of Paradise.”

3. Music-Art: Every Olympic Conference/games has its unique artistic approach to the five rings, the medals, etc. The students could design their own suggestions for these applied artistic expressions.

4. Music-Geography/Math/Engineering: During the Winter games, students could locate the principle participating nations on a world map. An integration with math could be easily accomplished by graphing the medal count. An engineering integration could be acquired by noting the designs of the bobsleds, luge, snowboards, etc. and challenging the students to design their own hardware. The music is a perfect "soundtrack” for these activities.