COMPOSER & CONDUCTOR
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.
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.
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.
Master Gunnery Sergeant Peter Wilson, USMC (Ret.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
“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.)
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.