Composer John Williams To Receive 44th AFI Life Achievement Award

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America’s Highest Honor for a Career in Film Goes to a Composer For the First Time in the History of the Award

Last Updated: October 9, 2015 5:24 pm GMT
(Los Angeles, California--October 9, 2015) Each year since 1973, the American Film Institute has toasted one of your favorite movie icons with the AFI Life Achievement Award. Directors from Clint Eastwood to Martin Scorsese to Orson Welles, and actors such as Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Taylor have all received the honor.


Composer John Williams to receive 44th AFI Life Achievement Award

But this year, AFI is making history. For the first time ever, America's highest honor for a career in film will be given to a composer. John Williams has been named the recipient of the 44th AFI Life Achievement Award.

“John Williams has written the soundtrack to our lives,” said Sir Howard Stringer, Chair, AFI Board of Trustees. “Note by note, through chord and chorus, his genius for marrying music with movies has elevated the art form to symphonic levels and inspired generations of audiences to be enriched by the magic of the movies. AFI is proud to present him with its 44th Life Achievement Award.”

Williams’ storied career as the composer behind many of the greatest American films and television series of all time boasts over 150 credits across seven decades. Perhaps best known for his enduring collaboration with director Steven Spielberg, his scores are among the most iconic and recognizable in film history, from the edge-of-your-seat JAWS (1975) motif to the emotional swell of E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) and the haunting elegies of SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993). Always epic in scale, his music has helped define over half a century of the motion picture medium. Three of Williams’ scores landed on AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores — a list of the 25 greatest American film scores of all time — including the unforgettable STAR WARS (1977) soundtrack, at number one. With five Academy Award® wins and 49 nominations in total, Williams holds the record for the most Oscar® nominations of any living person.

Williams will be honored at a gala Tribute on June 9, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. The AFI Life Achievement Award Tribute television special will air on TNT later that same month, followed by an encore presentation on Turner Classic Movies.


More About John Williams
Born and raised in New York, Williams moved to Los Angeles in 1948, where he studied composition with Mario Castelnuovo - Tedesco. After service in the Air Force, he returned to New York and studied piano with Madame Rosina Lhévinne at The Juilliard School, and also worked as a jazz pianist both in nightclubs and on recordings.

He returned to Los Angeles and began his career in the film industry, working with many accomplished film composers including Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Henry Mancini, Elmer Bernstein and Franz Waxman.

He went on to write music for more than 200 television films for the groundbreaking anthology series ALCOA THEATRE and KRAFT TELEVISION THEATRE. 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 the theme for the prestigious PBS arts showcase GREAT PERFORMANCES. Williams went on to compose the music and serve as music director for more than 150 films, including some of the most successful films of all time.

His 40 - year artistic partnership with director Steven Spielberg began in 1972 with the film THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS. The five Academy Awards® Williams has received are for: his adaptation of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (19 71 ), STAR WARS (1977) and three of his scores with Spielberg: JAWS (1975), E.T. THE EXTRA - TERRESTRIAL (1982) and SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993). He is also the recipient of 22 Grammy Awards®.

Williams served as Music Director of the Boston Pops Orchestra for 14 seasons and remains their Conductor Laureate. He has composed numerous works for the concert hall, and maintains vibrant relationships with many of the world’s leading symphony orchestras.

He has composed music for many important cultural and commemorative events, including the theme for the rededication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986 and themes for four Olympic Games. In 2003, he received the Olympic Order, the International Olympic Committee ’s highest honor, for his contributions to the Olympic movement. He was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in December of 2004 and the National Medal of Arts in 2009. Williams was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009 and in January of that same year, he composed and arranged “Air and Simple Gifts” for the first inaugural ceremony of President Barack Obama.


About the AFI Life Achievement Award
The highest honor given for a career in film, the AFI Life Achievement Award was established by the AFI Board of Trustees in 1973. It is presented to a single honoree each year based on the following criteria as mandated through a resolution passed by the AFI Board of Trustees:

"The recipient should be one whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the film art; whose accomplishment has been acknowledged by scholars, critics, professional peers and the general public; and whose work has stood the test of time."

Most recently, the 43rd AFI Life Achievement Award Tribute brought together the film community to honor Steve Martin. AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Mel Brooks (2013) presented the award, while Dan Aykroyd, Jack Black, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Queen Latifah, Conan O'Brien, Amy Poehler, Carl Reiner, Sarah Silverman and Lily Tomlin and many others, including past honorees Tom Hanks (2002) and Meryl Streep (2004), paid tribute to Martin in an evening filled with laughter, music and cheer.

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