William John Duane

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Williams, John (Towner)

Williams, John (Towner), enormously successful American composer and conductor; b. N.Y., Feb. 8, 1932. He was a student of Robert van Epps (orchestration) at Los Angeles City Coll., and also studied privately with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (composition) in Los Angeles and with Rosina Lhévinne (piano) in N.Y. He became notably successful as a composer, arranger, and conductor for films and television. Among his numerous successful film scores were Valley of the Dolls (1967), The Reivers (1969), Goodbye Mr. Chips (1969), Fiddler on the Roof (1971; Academy Award), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Images (1972), Cinderella Liberty (1973), Tom Sawyer (1974), The Towering Inferno (1974), Jaws (1975; Academy Award, Grammy Award, and Golden Globe Award), Star Wars (1977; Academy Award, 3 Grammy Awards, and Golden Globe Award), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977; 2 Grammy Awards), Superman (1978; 2 Grammy Awards), The Empire Strikes Back (1980; 2 Grammy Awards), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981; Grammy Award), E.T (1982; Academy Award, 3 Grammy Awards, and Golden Globe Award), Return of the Jedi (1983), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), J.F.K.(1991), Jurassic Park (1993), Schindler’s List (1993; Academy Award), Sabrina (1995), Nixon (1995), Amistad (1998), and Saving Private Ryan (1998).

In 1980 Williams became conductor of the Boston Pops Orchs., a position he retained until 1993. During his generally successful tenure, he diversified his appeal to Boston Pops audiences by conducting selections from his own extraordinarily popular film scores. Among his other compositional efforts were Essay for Strings (1966), Sym. (1966), Sinfonietta for Wind Ensemble (1968), Concerto for Flute, Strings, and Percussion (1969), Violin Concerto (1974-76; St. Louis, Jan. 29, 1981), Tuba Concerto (1985), Celebration Fanfare for Orch. (1986), The 5 Sacred Trees, concerto for Bassoon and Strings (1992-94; N.Y., April 12, 1995), and Cello Concerto (Tanglewood, July 7, 1994).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Williams, John (Towner) (b NY, 1932). Amer. composer. As boy, played pf., tb., tpt., and cl. Moved to Los Angeles 1948. Cond. Boston Pops Orch. from 1980. Wrote mus. for film and TV. Pianist, arranger, and cond. for Columbia Records. In films, assoc. with the director Steven Spielberg. Scores incl. The Towering Inferno (1974); Jaws (1975); Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977); Star Wars (1977); Superman (1978); The Empire Strikes Back (1980); Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982); E.T. (1982); Return of the Jedi (1983). Also comp. 2 syms., vn. conc., fl. conc., Essay, str., Olympic Fanfare (1984).

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