“Performing with 'The President's Own,' ... has been one of the highest honors of my working life in music." - John Williams

Album Selections

  • “Sound the Bells”
  • The Cowboys Overture
  • Theme from JFK
  • Excerpts from Far and Away
  • Olympic Fanfare and Theme
  • Escapades for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra from Catch Me If You Can
  • Theme from Schindler’s List
  • Raiders March from Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • “Adventures on Earth” from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • “Nimbus 2000” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Main Title from Star Wars
  • “The Mission Theme” from NBC News
  • The National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  • March from Superman
  • Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Suite from The Reivers
  • March from 1941
  • Liberty Fanfare
  • “Out to Sea/The Shark Cage Fugue” from Jaws
  • “The Adventures of Mutt” from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • “Harry’s Wondrous World” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Theme from The Sugarland Express
  • Tribute to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg
  • “The Tale of Viktor Navorski” from The Terminal
  • The Imperial March from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
  • BONUS: “For ‘The President’s Own’”



In a career spanning more than six decades, John Williams has become one of America’s most accomplished and successful composers for both film and the concert stage. He has served as music director and conductor laureate of one of the country’s treasured musical institutions, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and he maintains thriving artistic relationships with many of the world’s great orchestras, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Williams has received a variety of prestigious awards, including the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors, the Olympic Order, and numerous Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, Emmy Awards, and Golden Globe Awards. He remains one of our nation’s most distinguished and contributive musical voices.

Williams has composed the music and served as music director for more than 100 motion pictures. His forty-six-year artistic partnership with director Steven Spielberg has resulted in many of Hollywood’s most acclaimed and successful films, including Schindler’s List, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Indiana Jones films, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Munich, Hook, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Empire of the Sun, The Adventures of TinTin, War Horse, The BFG, and Lincoln. Their most recent collaboration, The Post, was released in December of 2017. Additionally, Williams composed the scores for all nine Star Wars films, the first three Harry Potter films, Superman, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Memoirs of a Geisha, Far and Away, The Accidental Tourist, Home Alone, Nixon, The Patriot, Angela’s Ashes, Seven Years in Tibet, The Witches of Eastwick, Rosewood, Sleepers, Sabrina, Presumed Innocent, The Cowboys, The Reivers, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips, among many others. He has worked with many legendary directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler, and Robert Altman. In 1971, Williams adapted the score for the film version of Fiddler on the Roof, for which he composed original violin cadenzas for renowned virtuoso Isaac Stern. Williams has appeared on recordings as a pianist and conductor with Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Jessye Norman, and others. He has received five Academy Awards from fifty-two nominations, making him the Academy’s most-nominated living person and the second-most nominated person in the history of the Oscars. Williams’ most recent nomination was for the film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. He also has received seven British Academy Awards (BAFTA), twenty-five Grammys, four Golden Globes, five Emmys, and numerous gold and platinum records.

Born and raised in New York, Williams moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1948, where he studied composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. After service in the Air Force, he returned to New York to attend the Juilliard School, where he studied piano with Rosina Lhévinne. While in New York, he also worked as a jazz pianist in nightclubs. Williams returned to Los Angeles and began his career in the film industry, working with a number of accomplished composers including Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, and Franz Waxman. He went on to write music for more than 200 television films including for the groundbreaking, early anthology series Alcoa Theatre, Kraft Television Theatre, Chrysler Theatre, and Playhouse 90. His more recent contributions to television music include the well-known theme for NBC Nightly News, “The Mission”; the theme for what has become network television’s longest-running series, NBC’s Meet the Press; and a new theme for the prestigious PBS arts showcase Great Performances.

In addition to his activity in film and television, Williams has composed numerous works for the concert stage, among them two symphonies and concertos for flute, violin, clarinet, viola, oboe, and tuba. His cello concerto was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and premièred by Yo-Yo Ma at the Tanglewood Music Center in 1994. Williams also has filled commissions by several of the world’s leading orchestras, including a bassoon concerto for the New York Philharmonic entitled The Five Sacred Trees, a trumpet concerto for the Cleveland Orchestra, and a horn concerto for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Seven for Luck, a seven-piece song cycle for soprano and orchestra based on the texts of former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove, was premièred by the BSO at Tanglewood in 1998. At the opening concert of their 2009–10 season, the BSO premièred Williams’ On Willows and Birches, a concerto for harp and orchestra.

In January 1980, Williams was named nineteenth music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra, succeeding the legendary Arthur Fiedler. He currently holds the title of Boston Pops conductor laureate, which he assumed following his retirement in December 1993, after fourteen highly successful seasons. He also holds the title of artist-in-residence at the Tanglewood Music Center.

One of America’s best known and most distinctive artistic voices, Williams has composed music for many important cultural and commemorative events. Liberty Fanfare was composed for the rededication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. American Journey, written to celebrate the new millennium and to accompany the retrospective film The Unfinished Journey by director Steven Spielberg, was premièred at the America’s Millennium concert in Washington, D.C., on New Year’s Eve 1999. Williams’ orchestral work Soundings was performed at the celebratory opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. In the world of sport, he has contributed musical themes for the 1984, 1988, and 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and the 1987 International Summer Games of the Special Olympics. In 2006, Williams composed the theme for NBC’s presentation of Sunday Night Football.

Williams holds honorary degrees from twenty-two American universities, including Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Juilliard School in New York; Boston College; Northeastern University in Boston; Tufts University in Middlesex County, Massachusetts; Boston University; the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston; the University of Massachusetts at Boston; the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York; the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio; and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He is a recipient of the 2009 National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States government. Williams received the forty-fourth Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 2016, becoming the first composer in history to receive this honor. In 2003, he received the Olympic Order, the International Olympic Committee’s highest honor, for his contributions to the Olympic movement. He served as the grand marshal of the 2004 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, and was a Kennedy Center Honoree in December 2004. Williams was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009, and in January of that same year, he composed and arranged Air and Simple Gifts especially for the first inaugural ceremony of President Barack Obama. In 2018, Williams received the Trustees Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and in 2020 he received Spain’s prestigious Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts, as well as the Gold Medal from the United Kingdom’s Royal Philharmonic Society.

john williams and the united states marine band

In 2002, anticipating the band’s upcoming 205th anniversary year, the twenty-sixth Director of the Marine Band, Colonel Timothy Foley, and his Assistant Director, Major Michael Colburn, wanted to plan a significant celebration of the long history and musical legacy of the ensemble. They sent a letter to John Williams with an invitation to conduct a gala concert with “The President’s Own” at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Without any personal contacts at the time nor any expectation that the letter would even find its way to Williams, it was to everyone’s tremendous surprise and delight when he graciously and enthusiastically accepted. Now retired, Col. Colburn recalled the moment Williams’ reply was received:

“Mr. Williams’ representative told me that Williams was both flattered and honored to receive an invitation from ‘The President’s Own’ and that he was eager to work with us! It turns out that Mr. Williams’ father, a professional percussionist, had taught his son to love and respect the Marine Band from a young age and that he had always held the organization in the highest esteem. Although I had many memorable moments as an Assistant Director, none was more gratifying than walking into Col. Foley’s office to deliver the news that John Williams would be guest conducting our 205th Anniversary Concert!”

Williams first appeared with the band on July 12, 2003, at the Kennedy Center, one day after the band’s official 205th birthday. Col. Foley remembered the very first time Williams took the podium in rehearsal and began to make music with the band in preparation for that concert:

“It was obvious, right at that moment, that this would be one of those marriages ‘made in heaven.’ In addition to his fabulous musicianship, flawless hearing, and impeccable conducting, John was—and is—the consummate gentleman. His relationship with the band immediately became that of a beloved family member; one who was patient, inspiring, and nurturing. He is hugely, deeply respected by the band members, who immediately recognized and accepted him as one of their own, which is not always common between playing musicians and conductors. Everyone who was present for that first rehearsal was witnessing a musical collaboration for the ages, and I am proud to have played a small role in bringing the great John Williams and the great United States Marine Band together.”

That historic occasion not only marked the beginning of a long friendship between Williams and “The President’s Own,” it also was the first time Williams had conducted a band in many decades. However, he was no stranger to such an ensemble; before becoming one of the most successful composers in American history, Williams served as a musician in the United States Air Force, playing piano, conducting, composing, and arranging for all manner of groups, including bands.

In the year that followed his first appearance with the Marine Band, Williams was selected to receive the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 2004. As Williams had formed a new artistic partnership with the Marine Band, he personally made a special request for the band to participate in the national broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors. As an honoree, Williams’ works were presented by numerous guest performers during the show. Famed violinist Itzhak Perlman performed Williams’ haunting theme from Schindler’s List before the curtains on the Kennedy Center Stage opened to reveal the full Marine Band in their signature scarlet coats. The band performed a medley of some of Williams’ most iconic film scores specially arranged for the occasion, conducted by then-music director of the National Symphony Orchestra Leonard Slatkin, as Williams looked on from the balcony with his fellow honorees.

The Marine Band encountered Williams as a guest at White House events several times over the ensuing years. Col. Colburn, who was by then the twenty-seventh Director of the band, often had the opportunity to talk with him. As Williams and Col. Colburn reflected on the electrifying concert at the Kennedy Center in 2003 and the band’s appearance at the 2004 Kennedy Center Honors, it became clear that there would be tremendous enthusiasm for an encore performance. Williams accepted an invitation to return to the Kennedy Center for another concert, this time in celebration of the band’s 210th anniversary in 2008. Several of his most enduring works were prepared especially for the Marine Band both in 2003 and 2008. Col. Colburn recalled the process for translating some of the most recognizable music in all American orchestral repertoire for the band:

“In addition to having Mr. Williams guest conduct, we were also eager to perform his music, so we began to work closely with Paul Lavender and his incredibly talented staff of arrangers and copyists at Hal Leonard, John Williams’ exclusive print music publisher, in order to ensure that we would have enough of his music to perform. Several new transcriptions of Mr. Williams’ works for film, the Olympics, and other major events were initiated, from the staffs of both the Marine Band and Hal Leonard, and it is a great source of pride that many of these works have become standards in the concert band repertoire.”

The Marine Band’s relationship with Williams did not come to an end in 2008. The following year, the Band traveled to the West Coast during their annual concert tour, and Williams made a special guest appearance during the band’s concert at Royce Hall on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles to conduct his rollicking March from 1941.

As the band’s 215th anniversary approached in 2013, Col. Colburn once again invited Mr. Williams to lead the ensemble. Unfortunately, the process of sequestration in the government prevented a third gala concert from taking place; however, Williams followed through on his promise to compose an original piece for the band to celebrate the milestone. It was his first piece written for band in more than forty years, and he warmly titled the work “For ‘The President’s Own.’” Williams traveled to Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2013 to conduct a reading and recording of his generous gift to the Marine Band. That recording is featured as a bonus track on Volume 2 of this collection.

In the fall of 2019, the Marine Band traveled to California on tour, and once again, Williams accepted an invitation to guest conduct the band at Royce Hall. His appearance was carefully kept secret from the audience in attendance as well as the staff at the hall. The band performed an all-Williams program for the second half of the concert, including “For ‘The President’s Own,’” The Cowboys Overture, and “With Malice Toward None” from Spielberg’s film Lincoln, featuring former Marine Band member and current principal trumpet of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Thomas Hooten. Williams chose to listen to his friends play his works from backstage, until it came time to perform his classic March from 1941, for which Williams was announced to the podium to a chorus of astonished gasps and cheers. The encore was the same as that from his second gala concert with the band in 2008: the unforgettable Imperial March from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

The two full-length gala concerts at the Kennedy Center from 2003 and 2008 are a tour de force of some of Williams’ most popular and creative scores and serve as the source for this unique recording collection. These previously unreleased live concert recordings of the composer leading “The President’s Own” represent one of the most memorable musical chapters in the long and storied history of the Marine Band. Williams’ contributions to our national artistic voice will remain indelible for all time, and we are eternally grateful for the many opportunities we have had together with him to bring his incredible music to life. His affection for the United States Marine Band and the men and women who serve in this historic institution has been apparent time and again over the past two decades, and the Marine musicians who have had the rare privilege of making music with him count these collaborations among the most meaningful moments of their careers. The Marine Band is humbled to know that Williams felt the same.

from the composer

“Performing with ‘The President’s Own,’ our renowned United States Marine Band, has been one of the highest honors of my working life in music, and their invitation to conduct concerts at the Kennedy Center in 2003 and 2008 constituted a very rare privilege for me. My great hope is that listeners of this special recording will experience some of the exhilaration and fun that I enjoyed conducting these two memorable performances. The U.S. Marine Band is a miracle shaped and formed by dedication and pride. With their stylistic comprehension, lyrical expressiveness, and rhythmic swagger across a very broad and diverse repertoire, they retain a level of instrumental excellence comparable to that of our greatest symphony orchestras, who are themselves the standard of the world. Already more than 220 years young, this ensemble truly is a national treasure of which all Americans should be justly proud. May they continue their inspiring work for decades, and even centuries, to come.”

volume 1

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

July 12, 2003


“Sound the Bells!”

transcribed by Paul Lavender

In 1993, I led the Boston Pops Orchestra on a tour of Japan, where the orchestra has played many times for wonderfully friendly and enthusiastic audiences. That particular tour was nearly contemporaneous with the wedding of Crown Prince Naruhito and Masako Owada, and I thought our concerts would present a good opportunity to celebrate the event by offering a fanfare written especially for these concerts.

I’ve always been fascinated by the huge Japanese temple bells, and while I made no attempt to emulate these, they were a kind of inspiration for the prominent use of percussion. “Sound the Bells!” was originally written for brass and percussion only, and I later orchestrated it for full orchestra for use on our Boston Pops concerts.

— John Williams

The Cowboys Overture

transcribed by Jay Bocook

The Cowboys was a film directed by the very talented Mark Rydell and featured John Wayne, probably Hollywood’s quintessential cowboy.

The movie required a vigorous musical score to accompany virtuoso horseback riding and calf roping, and when my friend André Previn heard fragments of the score, he suggested that a concert overture lay hidden within the film’s music. Several years slipped by, and each time I saw the indefatigable Previn, he would ask, “Have you made an overture of Cowboys yet?”

He kept this up until 1980, when I finally worked out the piece and played it at a Boston Pops concert. Both the orchestra and the audience seemed to enjoy the music to such an extent that it has been part of our repertoire ever since.

—John Williams

Theme from JFK

transcribed by Paul Lavender

When Oliver Stone asked me to compose the score for his controversial and thought-provoking film JFK, he presented me with a challenge that I especially welcomed. For all Americans, and particularly for those of my generation, President Kennedy’s life has always been imbued with a mythical dimension, no less powerful today than when he was alive.

The Theme from JFK attempts to portray something of the young president’s character, including a reference to his Irish ancestry.

—John Williams

Excerpts from Far and Away

transcribed by Paul Lavender

After seeing John Ford’s classic film The Quiet Man as a youngster many years ago, I had always aspired to write a film score based on an Irish subject. When director Ron Howard asked me to score his film Far and Away, I immediately realized that my opportunity had arrived.

Given the richness of Irish vernacular music, the challenge to create original melodies in the Irish style was a daunting one. Nevertheless, it was a challenge I particularly enjoyed and had great fun with.

I wrote one theme attempting to depict County Galway circa 1892, another describing the “fighting Donnellys,” a love theme for the characters Joseph and Shannon (played respectively by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman), and a “blowing off steam” fight theme that accompanied the typically Irish fun-filled “donnybrook” that was so perfectly realized in the film.

—John Williams

Olympic Fanfare and Theme

transcribed by Jay Bocook

For the XXIII Olympiad, held in Los Angeles in 1984, the producers commissioned music that could be played for the medal ceremonies and also serve as an overall musical signature for the games themselves. Williams responded with a piece that was so inspired, and so immediately popular, that it has become the best-known of the many compositions associated with the quadrennial international athletic competition.

Its thrilling brass figures and broad, noble theme embody the hopes and dreams of all Olympians, regardless of time and place. Musically, explained the composer, it was designed to represent “the spirit of cooperation, of heroic achievement, all the striving and preparation that go before the events and the applause that comes after them.” The composer conducted the work’s première at the opening ceremonies on July 28, 1984, at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

—Jon Burlingame

Escapades for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra from Catch Me If You Can

transcribed by Stephen Bulla

The 2002 film Catch Me If You Can constituted a delightful departure for director Steven Spielberg. It tells the story of Frank Abagnale, the teenaged imposter, who baffled FBI agents with his incredible exploits.

The film is set in the now nostalgically-tinged 1960s, and so it seemed to me that I might evoke the atmosphere of that time by writing a sort of impressionistic memoir of the progressive jazz movement that was then so popular. The alto saxophone seemed the ideal vehicle for this expression, and the three movements of this suite are the result.

In “Closing In,” we have music that relates to the often humorous sleuthing which took place in the story, followed by “Reflections,” which refers to the fragile relationships in Abagnale’s broken family. Finally, in “Joy Ride,” we have the music that accompanied Frank’s wild flights of fantasy that took him all around the world before the law finally reigned him in.

—John Williams

Master Sergeant Gregory Ridlington

Alto Saxophone Soloist

Saxophonist Master Sergeant Gregory Ridlington joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in April 1999. Master Sgt. Ridlington began his musical instruction at age ten. After graduating in 1991 from Mead High School in Spokane, Washington, he attended the University of North Texas in Denton, where he received a bachelor’s degree in music in 1995. His instructors included Jim Riggs and Eric Nestler. In 1999, he earned a master’s degree in music from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he studied with Kenneth Radnofsky and George Garzone. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” Master Sgt. Ridlington toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Theme from Schindler’s List

transcribed by John Moss

Williams’ fifth Academy Award was for his moving score for Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Holocaust drama Schindler’s List. As Spielberg wrote at the time:

“The anti-human events beginning with Kristallnacht to the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau posed a deliberate challenge to both John and me: how to make the unimaginable factual, and how to create not so much a motion picture but a document of those intolerable times. The choice John Williams made was gentle simplicity. Most of our films together have required an almost operatic accompaniment, which is fitting for Indiana Jones, Close Encounters [of the Third Kind], or Jaws. Each of us had to depart from our characteristic styles and begin again. This is certainly [music] to be attended with closed eyes and sequestered hearts.”

In fact, there is very little music in Schindler’s List, as Spielberg brought a documentary-style approach to this extremely sensitive subject matter. The theme features a violin solo, one played in the original film by Itzhak Perlman. Few motion picture scores written before or since have had to tread so lightly and carefully. Williams accomplished the task at hand—music that met the necessary dramatic needs while also memorializing the victims of the Holocaust with reverence and feeling.

—Jon Burlingame

Master Gunnery Sergeant Peter Wilson, USMC (Ret.)

Violin Soloist

Violinist Master Gunnery Sergeant Peter Wilson, USMC (Ret.), joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in September 1990. He served as principal second violin from 1991 to 2012, and he was appointed string section commander in 2007. He also served as “Voice of the Marine Barracks” from 1995 to 2020, acting as official ceremonial narrator of Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.

Wilson began his musical training at age two. After graduating in 1986 from Morgantown High School in West Virginia, he earned a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 1990. He earned a master’s degree in 1995 and a doctorate in 2007 from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Wilson’s violin instructors include his mother Mary Wilson, Linda Cerone, Jody Gatwood, Robert Gerle, Blair Milton, and Donald Portnoy. His conducting instructors were Victor Yampolsky and John P. Paynter. Prior to joining “The President’s Own,” he was concertmaster of the Walt Disney World All-American Orchestra in Orlando, Florida. Following his retirement from the Marine Band in 2020, Wilson has continued his active career as a conductor and performer, serving as music director of the Richmond Philharmonic Orchestra and the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra in Central Virginia, concertmaster of the American Festival Pops Orchestra, and faculty member at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Raiders March from Raiders of the Lost Ark

transcribed by Paul Lavender

Spielberg joined forces with his friend, Star Wars creator George Lucas, for a fun romp through the territory of Saturday-afternoon serials on Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Lucas came up with the idea and produced the picture, while Spielberg directed. That Williams would compose the music was a foregone conclusion.

Raiders, of course, went on to become one of the biggest hits in the history of American movies. The score was Academy Award-nominated, and the collaboration between star Harrison Ford, Lucas, and Spielberg carried through three sequels, two of which (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1984; Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1989), were also nominated for their music.

For the original, Williams penned a signature theme for Ford as archaeologist-adventurer Indiana Jones: a march that is at once light-hearted and thrilling (with a midsection that suggests something of Indy’s more romantic side, originally written for co-star Karen Allen’s character) that has become one of the most familiar orchestral pieces of the past twenty-five years.

—Jon Burlingame

“Adventures on Earth” from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

transcribed by Paul Lavender

Williams’ music for Spielberg’s beloved 1982 science fiction adventure may be among the composer’s best-loved as well. E.T. is one of Spielberg’s most accomplished films in its uncanny ability to connect with audiences’ hearts, despite the fact that the central character is an odd-looking little creature from another world. Williams’ score was a key factor in building and maintaining our trust in this little fellow and the Earth child (Elliott, portrayed by Henry Thomas) who befriends him and helps him find his way back home.

“Adventures on Earth” is drawn from the last act of the film and, if you remember anything about the movie, you may still feel an emotional tug in its final moments. The suite encapsulates the chase by Elliott and his friends who become airborne on their bicycles; the majesty of the hidden spaceship which returns for its missing crewmember; and the emotionally wrenching farewell scene between Elliott and E.T.

Since this score won the Academy Award in 1983, Williams has played this music many times in concert—perhaps never so affecting as at a Los Angeles benefit in 2002, in which E.T. screened, and Williams played the entire score live to the film (with Spielberg, the cast, and key members of the production in the audience).

—Jon Burlingame

“Nimbus 2000” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Williams’ score to the first Harry Potter movie included several musical miniatures to represent different characters, items, and locations featured in the incredibly successful film based on the popular original novel.

Williams explained the title of this particular musical episode from the film score:

“In the Harry Potter books, Quidditch is a form of intramural competition that’s played on flying broomsticks. The games are conducted every year at the Hogwarts School with great pageantry, featuring colorful flags and cheering crowds. The Nimbus 2000 is Harry Potter’s own personal broomstick. To musically depict this ingenious mode of transportation we have the woodwind section, with its flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons, all capable of extraordinary leaps and astonishing agility, forming a perfect match for the nimble Nimbus 2000.”

During this encore performance, Maestro Williams suddenly steps off the podium to allow the musicians to play unconducted, much to the audible delight of the audience.

Main Title from Star Wars

transcribed by Stephen Bulla

There are few pieces of music in the lineage of American film that are as instantly recognizable as the opening fanfare Williams composed for George Lucas’ iconic Star Wars films. The Main Title featured in the very first film in 1977 subsequently opened each of the eight successive movies. Williams’ score to the original film earned him an Academy Award, and this music has remained among his most enduring in the decades since its release.

Williams reflected on the legacy of these films:

“During 1997 we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the release of George Lucas’ classic film Star Wars. All of us connected with this phenomenal movie have been greatly gratified to see an entire new generation of very young filmgoers enjoy the Star Wars trilogy and relate so strongly to its story, characters, and music. I have always felt privileged to have had the opportunity to compose music for these landmark films, and the ongoing interest in the films and their music has continued to be one of my greatest joys.”

“The Mission Theme” from NBC News

transcribed by Paul Lavender

I wrote the Mission Theme in 1984 at the request of the NBC News Division and was delighted when they chose it as their musical signature for the NBC Nightly News featuring Tom Brokaw. Although used in small sound-bite versions, the music was heard each night during Mr. Brokaw’s long and distinguished career at NBC.

While writing this piece I remembered my father expertly tapping out Morse code signals, or the clatter of the old ticker tape, so I decided to start the music with a kind of allusive reference to these pre-Internet means of news delivery. The opening figure provided a rhythmic pulse over which I could lay the main Mission Theme.

Because of time constraints common to the medium, I don’t believe the full version presented here has ever been heard on television, and so if orchestras and audiences might derive a little pleasure from this piece without the aid of their TV sets, I would feel as though we’re having a truly good news day.

—John Williams

volume 2

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

July 20, 2008


The National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”

John Stafford Smith (1750–1836); arranged by John Williams

Williams created his own arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the brass section of the Boston Pops, an orchestra he directed for fourteen memorable seasons and which he continues to serve as conductor laureate. This version was performed at Boston’s historic Fenway Park before the opening game of the 2007 World Series. Reflecting upon our national anthem, Williams said:

“‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ holds a unique place in our nation’s musical heritage. As our National Anthem, it has been performed an unfathomable number of times, in every conceivable arrangement, and it stands as an enduring symbol in the collective memory of all Americans. I have always thought of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as being primarily a vocal piece, having heard so many outstanding and highly individual performances done by singers. I feel that an increased variety of instrumental versions might in some way reflect the healthy and still growing diversity of our great country as we, each in our different ways, embrace this grand old tune, which continues to unify us all.”

March from Superman

transcribed by Paul Lavender

When the movie version of Superman was released in 1978, the most famous of superheroes was brought to life in spectacular fashion. As one of the very first big-budget comic book movies, the film paved the way for countless other classic characters to make their way to the silver screen. For Williams, the opportunity to work on the project was a chance of a lifetime:

“Growing up in my generation meant that you avidly followed the exploits of Superman in the syndicated comic strips that regularly appeared in newspapers across the country. It was a time when Superman fired the imaginations of all of our youngsters, and I was no exception.

Many years later, when director Richard Donner asked me to compose the score for his feature-length film of Superman, I was thrilled. I truly felt that I was revisiting a formative part of my childhood. I remember how excited I was when Mr. Donner showed me his wonderful film with actors Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder flying high above the Statue of Liberty in one of the movie’s many memorable moments. I began by writing this piece, which formed the basis of the musical score for the film.

The movie’s great success wouldn’t have been possible without Christopher Reeve, who embodied every characteristic of what we imagined Superman to be. Without him, this music would never have seen the light of day.”

Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind

transcribed by Stephen Bulla

Williams collaborated for the third time with director Steven Spielberg in 1977 on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This majestic movie about a long-awaited visit from extraterrestrials remains one of the composer’s favorite Spielberg films. Williams’ rich and abstract score and its famous five-note musical motif play an unusually vital role in the storyline. Spielberg explained:

“The challenge posed to John this time was quite literally from another world. How should mankind communicate with this mesmerizing mothership? John wanted something that was kind of a signal or musical beacon—he felt that anything longer than five notes was too close to a melody. As simple and natural as the theme now seems, it was anything but simple to compose. We consulted with a mathematician who warned us that there are at least 25,000 ways to combine five notes! Undaunted, John created his inspired combination. Out of those five notes, John went on to compose a finale filled with awe, affection, and reverence, a musical blessing for the transcendent encounter between humans and extraterrestrials.”

Williams’ music for Close Encounters of the Third Kind garnered an Oscar nomination, but the composer was outdone that year by none other than himself; he received the award for yet another landmark score, the one he composed for George Lucas’ groundbreaking epic, Star Wars.

Suite from The Reivers

transcribed by Paul Lavender

William Faulkner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Reivers chronicles the adventures of a privileged and sheltered eleven-year-old boy named Lucius Priest (“Loosh”) and two older men, the family coachman Ned McCaslin and a plantation handyman named Boon Hogganbeck. When Loosh’s grandfather acquires the first automobile in rural Mississippi, a bright yellow Winton Flyer, Boon “borrows” the car and takes Ned and the boy on a whirlwind road trip to Memphis. Along the way, Ned trades the grandfather’s Flyer for a racehorse, and Loosh is thrust headlong into Boon’s grown-up world with all of its vice, conflict, and ultimately, courage and enlightenment.

Both the novel and the 1969 movie version starring Steve McQueen as Boon are told from Loosh’s perspective, as he reminisces upon his adventures some sixty years later. Williams received an Academy Award nomination in 1970 for his nostalgic and colorful score, and this early success helped catapult his career in Hollywood. He later adapted music from the film into a concert suite for orchestra and narrator.

The Honorable Alan Simpson

Former Senator from Wyoming, Narrator

Senator Alan Simpson was born in Denver, Colorado, on September 2, 1931. He graduated from the University of Wyoming College of Law in 1958 and was admitted to the Wyoming State Bar that same year. Senator Simpson served in the United States Army Infantry from 1954 to 1956 and later served as assistant attorney general of Wyoming from 1958 to 1959. He was United States Commissioner from 1959 to 1969 and a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives from 1964 to 1977, and he was elected to the United States Senate on November 7, 1978, for the six-year term commencing January 3, 1979. Senator Simpson was reelected in 1984 and 1990 and served as a Senator until January 3, 1997. He was director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government from 1998 to 2000 and served as a member of the American Battle Monuments Commission. Additionally, he was a member of the Iraq Study Group and the Commission on Presidential Debates. Senator Simpson serves as Chairman Emeritus of the Board of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, and served as Co-Chairman with Erskine Bowles on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. He sits on the boards of The Common Good, Issue One, and the National Institute for Civil Discourse. Active in the performing arts he has narrated The Reivers with Williams conducting at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, the Boston Pops, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Marine Band at the Kennedy Center. He holds degrees and honorary doctorates from Notre Dame, American University, Colorado College, among other institutions.

March from 1941

transcribed by Paul Lavender

In the 1979 comedy film 1941 by Steven Spielberg, residents of Los Angeles mistakenly believe they are under attack from the Japanese in the aftermath of the assault on Pearl Harbor. The late John Belushi played Captain Wild Bill Kelso, a somewhat unstable yet affable Air Force pilot at the center of the action. According to Williams, Kelso’s antics “seemed to require a musical accompaniment that had humor and rhythmic vitality. As a result, I set myself the task of writing a zanily patriotic march, that upon hearing, we might be moved to tap our feet to an imaginary parade going by and have fun doing it.” The March from 1941 is indeed a fun-filled romp from beginning to end and is most certainly among Williams’ best efforts in the genre of martial music.

Liberty Fanfare

transcribed by Jay Bocook

In 1886, the United States Marine Band and its director John Philip Sousa performed for the unveiling and dedication of the Statue of Liberty. One hundred years later, on July 4, 1986, the Marine Band again was present as this stalwart icon of American patriotism was rededicated during a series of nationally broadcast celebrations. Williams was commissioned to compose an orchestral fanfare for the festivities that would also be used as the official theme music for the ABC presentations surrounding Independence Day. During the live telecast of the rededication ceremony, Williams led the Boston Pops in a performance of the new work he described as “a group of American airs and tunes of my own invention.” Liberty Fanfare begins with a powerful flourish for the brass that is followed by an inspired and optimistic lyrical theme that, as Boston music critic Anthony Tommasini once put it, “gets you right in the back of the throat.”

“Out to Sea/The Shark Cage Fugue” from Jaws

transcribed by Jay Bocook

Of all of the memorable themes that Williams has composed for film during his long and distinguished career, the one that arguably produces the most visceral response from listeners consists of just two notes. Williams’ shark theme from the 1975 Spielberg blockbuster Jaws ranks among the most recognizable music in film history and was an integral part of a score that earned Williams his second Academy Award.

In Spielberg’s words, Williams’ music “was clearly responsible for half the success of the movie,” and not just because of the now famous motif that embodied the film’s terrifying main character. In “Out to Sea,” a trio of shark hunters led by Police Chief Martin Brody (played by Roy Scheider) head into open water to find the menacing beast. This is followed by the “Shark Cage Fugue,” a classically-inspired and sophisticated accompaniment to a tense underwater scene in which Matt Hooper (portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss) comes face-to-face with the great white in an all-too-fragile suspended cage.

“The Adventures of Mutt” from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

transcribed by Paul Lavender

Williams has composed the music for all four films in the Indiana Jones franchise, including the long-awaited fourth adventure, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The distinctive characters and unrelenting action in these popular movies have relied heavily on Williams’ unique scoring abilities. As Spielberg put it, “John’s music has always related in a kinetic fashion to the way I rhythmically pace my sequences. It gives the impression of one constant, adventurous trip…becoming as important a character to the story as the heroes and villains.”

In the fourth installment, the rebellious young character Mutt, played by Shia LaBeouf, is introduced to Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones early in the action. Mutt possesses much of the same penchant for adventure and danger as the famous archeologist for reasons that are revealed later in the film. Williams’ sparkling scherzo brilliantly accompanies one of Mutt’s action sequences in the movie.

“Harry’s Wondrous World” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

transcribed by Paul Lavender

Author J. K. Rowling’s wildly popular Harry Potter series had become a worldwide phenomenon by the time Christopher Columbus directed the junior wizard’s big screen debut in the 2001 film Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. Williams was invited to compose the music for this magical adventure, and he delivered a brilliant collection of inspired and dazzling themes that has now become inextricably linked with Harry and his colorful entourage. Given the tremendous affection for the series, it was a challenge Williams was honored to undertake: “The story’s imaginative array of wizards flying on broomsticks and mail-delivering owls offered a unique canvas for the music, and the prospect of sharing it with some part of the great army of readers who love these books is a great joy to me.” Indeed, the books, the films, and the music that brought Harry’s wondrous world to life continue to spark the imaginations of all ages across the globe.

Theme from The Sugarland Express

transcribed by Stephen Bulla

The year before Jaws took the theaters by storm and made Steven Spielberg and John Williams household names, the pair collaborated for the very first time in the 1974 crime adventure, The Sugarland Express. The film was Spielberg’s feature directorial debut and starred a young Goldie Hawn as Lou Jean Poplin, a mother desperate to get her child back from foster care. She implores her husband to escape from prison, and the two kidnap their infant son, take a rookie police officer hostage, and head across state in his patrol car with the entire police force in close pursuit.

Williams’ bluesy score includes a main theme that prominently features solo harmonica. Originally performed and recorded by the great virtuoso Toots Thielemans, to whom the work is dedicated, the composer adapted the part to be performed in concert by a solo flute.

Master Gunnery Sergeant Gail Gillespie, USMC (Ret.)

Flute Soloist

Flutist Master Gunnery Sergeant Gail Gillespie, USMC (Ret.), joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in August 1979 and was appointed principal flutist in 1983. Gillespie began her musical instruction on piano at age eight and on flute at age eleven. After graduating from Punahou High School in Honolulu, she attended the New England Conservatory in Boston and earned a bachelor’s degree in music with honors in performance in 1977. In 1978, she was awarded a fellowship in flute/piccolo at the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox, Massachusetts. Her primary flute instructors included the late Jean Harling of the Honolulu Symphony, Paula Robison of the New England Conservatory, the late James Pappoutsakis of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the late Britton Johnson of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Toshiko Kohno of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Following her retirement from the Marine Band in 2009, Gillespie moved to Portland, Oregon, where she is Second Flute and Piccolo with the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra. In addition, she frequently plays as a substitute with other orchestras in the area and maintains a private flute studio.

Tribute to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg

transcribed by Paul Lavender

Of the more than 100 films for which Williams has served as composer and music director, more than two dozen were directed or produced by George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. Among these scores is some of the most widely recognized and beloved film music in history, and these collaborations have resulted in four of Williams’ five Academy Awards. This incredible and ongoing artistic partnership has not only produced exceptional films, it has led to an unprecedented interest in symphonic film music, both in recordings and on the concert stage. The Tribute to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg includes the best of the best, featuring the unforgettable music from Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

“The Tale of Viktor Navorski" from The Terminal

transcribed by Paul Lavender

Williams’ score for the Spielberg film The Terminal starring Tom Hanks employs an evocative world music style one might imagine could come from the fictitious country from which Hanks’ colorful character hails. Part drama, part comedy, the film follows the protagonist as he finds himself a man without a country and stuck in an airport terminal for days on end. Williams’ creative score brings to life this unusual and unfortunate circumstance and includes a musical portrait of Hanks’ character, whose name is Viktor Navorski. The composer explained:

“In the story, Viktor left his home in an imaginary Eastern European country, arriving at a U.S. airport where his adventures began. To portray Viktor’s warmth and friendliness, I decided to write a dance-like piece for clarinet and orchestra that would capture something of his colorful ethnic background. In recording the soundtrack of the film, I was very lucky to have the services of clarinetist Emily Bernstein, who performed the music with great style, technique, and taste.”

Master Sergeant Jihoon Chang, USMC (Ret.)

Clarinet Soloist

Clarinetist Master Sergeant Jihoon Chang, USMC (Ret.), joined “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in October 1990. Chang began his musical instruction at age twelve. Upon graduating in 1984 from Granite City High School in Illinois, he earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1988 from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where he studied clarinet with Howard Klug. He continued his education at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., where he studied with Ken Grant of the Rochester Philharmonic and earned a master’s degree in music in 1990. In 2010, he received his doctoral degree from the University of Maryland in College Park. Following his retirement from the Marine Band in 2016, Chang has continued his active performing career as principal clarinet of the Washington Chamber Orchestra, as well as his involvement in education at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he is professor of clarinet and saxophone.

The Imperial March from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

transcribed by Stephen Bulla

Williams’ menacing musical signature for Darth Vader and the Empire from Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy remains one of the most iconic symphonic themes in all film music. Like many of Williams’ award-winning scores to these classic films, this theme is instantly recognizable, both as a portrait for one of the most unforgettable characters in Star Wars, as well as an exciting and dramatic symphonic march.

“For ‘The President’s Own’”

Williams graciously penned his first original work for winds in more than four decades as a token of esteem for “The President’s Own” in 2013, in celebration of the Marine Band’s 215th anniversary. Generously named for the ensemble by the composer, the piece combines virtuosic, intertwining figures with a series of playful themes and bright fanfares that brilliantly captures the many colors and textures of Williams’ inimitable music both for film and the concert stage.

The recording included on this volume was made by the U.S. Marine Band under the composer’s baton in John Phlip Sousa Band Hall at the Marine Barracks Annex in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2013.

special acknowledgements

  • Mr. John Williams, for his endless generosity with the U.S. Marine Band, and truly inspiring musicianship
  • Mr. Jamie Richardson, The Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency for his invaluable facilitation of the collaborations between Maestro Williams and the U.S. Marine Band
  • Mr. Paul Lavender of Hal Leonard for providing the transcriptions of Mr. Williams works, along with Jay Bocook, John Moss and Stephen Bulla
  • The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and Lieutenant General G.R. Christmas, USMC (Ret.) and Ms. Susan Hodges for their support of these special concerts
  • Mr. Jon Burlingame for contributing to the program notes for this recording
  • Ms. Susan Dangel, who coordinated the film clips that accompanied part of Mr. Williams’ 2008 performance with the U.S. Marine Band
  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
  • The following music publishers for their generosity in licensing for this recording: Warner Chappell Music; Universal Music Publishing Group; Sony/ATV Music Publishing; Bantha Music / Disney Music Group