John Williams: How One Man Impacted Millions Of People And An Entire Industry

johnwilliams.jpgFor nearly half a century, the iconic work of legendary composer John Williams revolutionized the influential scope of film music. With references ranging from nonsensical internet memes to clever musical easter eggs, to his nearly legendary status among the composer’s of  his music visibly—and audibly—pervades popular media in every imaginable way.  It’s not surprising that John Williams has become a household name, synonymous with blockbusters like Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter and even the “Olympic Fanfare.”

So how did these scores change the musical world?

Composer and conductor David Newman looks back to a time before Williams’ worldwide success and recalls how film music was seen as a completely different musical entity:

Film music was always the kind of second, third, fourth you know, it was really looked down on… Back in 1980 orchestras had no interest in playing film music because they didn’t think it was very good.

But 24 Grammy Awards, 7 British Academy Film Awards, 4 Golden Globes, 5 Academy Awards, 4 Golden Globes and 51 Academy Award nominations later, John Williams set off a golden age for symphonic Hollywood score-soundtracks with his grand orchestrations, intricate compositions, and familiar themes.


In the Summer of 2017, Pacific Symphony performed Williams’ legendary score to Jurassic Park live to film at Pacific Amphitheatre

These musical scores aren’t the only thing we have to thank Williams for! Here at Pacific Symphony, we owe it to Williams for bringing our very own Carl St.Clair to Orange County to become our director in 1989. And in the years following, the symphony has been able to celebrate Williams with various annual film-to-screen concerts featuring the very films he scored: Jurassic Park, E.T., Indiana Jones and coming soon on August 17, “Star Wars: A New Hope – In Concert.”

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Carl St.Clair and John Williams share a moment after a concert

At the end of the day, whether if it helped us bond with family during a movie night or introduced us to orchestral music, we can all acknowledge and appreciate how the music of John Williams has impacted our lives for the better.

John Williams’ music “captures so vividly the many emotions experienced by mankind, from exaltation to the deepest sorrow.”

– Carl St.Clair


This article was written by Alison Huh, one of Pacific Symphony’s Marketing & PR interns. Alison will be a sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, where she studies English. She was formerly a member of Pacific Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, playing flute.


Lights! Camera! Music! – Welcoming New Audiences with Film (Part 2/2)

DC_SW_NewHope_MovieScreenNearly everyone grows up with movies and nowadays, they’re more accessible than ever with platforms like Netflix or Hulu. On top of that, the mainstream rise of critically-acclaimed soundtrack composers—from John Williams (Star Wars) and Alan Silvestri (The Avengers) to younger stars like Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)—brings high artistic value to audiences of all ages.

The success and popularity of these new film-in-concert series is evident with this published list of all the live-to-screen concerts scheduled around the world for the next year—there’s HUNDREDS already listed! Best of all, they’ve brought everyone to the symphony, ranging from lightsaber-wielding toddlers to longtime fans who saw these movies back when they were in theaters.


Symphony orchestras will often perform American classics, such as 1961’s West Side Story, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins

So what about Lockhart’s original concerns about light music dying out? Will movie screenings and other pop culture acts inevitably take over?  How can we be sure to preserve this subgenre of classical music?

There’s no way to predict the future, but in this day in age, directors and musicians must keep an open-mind.


A symphony orchestra performing the soundtrack to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film, Psycho

This isn’t to say that we let go of the light classics nor should musicians ONLY play what audiences want (they have to enjoy their art, too). What’s important is that symphonies and orchestras should look to diversify their audiences all around by reflecting that same outreach in their programming—not just targeting specific groups. We can’t ONLY cater to millennials and Gen-Z audiences, neglecting our baby-boomer listeners; at the same time, it’s unfair to not let younger people simply enjoy the same genre music because of a generational difference in media consumption.

If symphony orchestras exist as a hub of cultural life and appreciation, we should to be able to celebrate that very “culture” with every person that’s a part of shaping it.

Luckily, this summer, Pacific Symphony is giving us the best of both worlds with a concert event for classical aficionados and movie fanatics: “Star Wars: A New Hope – In Concert” on Saturday, August 17 at Costa Mesa’s wonderful Pacific Amphitheatre!


This article was written by Alison Huh, one of Pacific Symphony’s Marketing & PR interns. Alison will be a sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, where she studies English. She was formerly a member of Pacific Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, playing flute.

Lights! Camera! Music! – Welcoming New Audiences with Film (Part 1/2)

DC_SW_NewHope_MovieScreen.jpgThe merging of film and music isn’t anything particularly new—movie soundtracks have existed for nearly 100 years. It appears that audiences now don’t want to just see another movie on a summer night. They instead want to experience the active coming-together of a film’s visual element with its musical element through these unique concerts. However, with any new idea comes its fair share of concerns.

In a brief interview with the New York Times, Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart pitches the looming question:

As music directors and administrators try various approaches to connect with new audiences — adding film screenings with live orchestral accompaniment, video game soundtracks, theatrical circus spectacles and 1990s rock acts — are they abandoning the large repertory that drew many listeners in the first place?

Lockhart fears the dismissal of light classic programming—pieces like von Suppe’s “Light Cavalry” or Offenbach’s “Can-Can.” However, for the new audience member, how can they share Lockhart’s feelings when they don’t have as much exposure to the orchestral world? What if they don’t know who von Suppe or Offenbach are?

If programs don’t put the audience perspective into consideration, they could perpetuate the stereotype that classical music is an exclusive bubble, reserved only for those who understand its dense cultural history—just the kind of stereotype we want to move away from!

This design case study looking at the Chicago Symphony’s interaction with millennial audiences affirmed how the most common comment amongst young people was that “the barrier to entry feels so high—like I have to be a classical music expert to enjoy myself,” or “I wouldn’t know where to start in terms of picking a show. Just seeing the schedule makes me feel like an idiot.”

This is where films and pop culture can help bridge the gap between the age-old symphony and the youthful audience member…

(To be continued in Part 2 tomorrow!)


This article was written by Alison Huh, one of Pacific Symphony’s Marketing & PR interns. Alison will be a sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, where she studies English. She was formerly a member of Pacific Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, playing flute.

Pacific Symphony Presents: “Hail To The Heroes”

SoldierSaluteSIL-TALL_423951613-WIDEA Celebration of the U.S. Armed Forces! 

I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand up next to you
And defend Her still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt
I love this land
God Bless the U.S.A.

These lyrics from Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A” are sure to light up the night at Costa Mesa’s OC Fair & Event Center with mounds of gratitude and patriotic spirit. Here at Pacific Symphony, we would like to welcome all of Orange County’s active and veteran military members to a special concert dedicated to honoring those in our local community who have served in the past and present.


Lee Greenwood, singer of the patriotic favorite “God Bless the USA”

For active-duty military, veterans and first responders, we want to thank you for your service with a free concerts ticket as well as three additional complimentary tickets to bring along your loved ones!

As a salute to those who defended America’s ideals and remember those who never returned, the concert will feature a fantastic lineup, featuring country music icon Lee Greenwood, Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale. From patriotic favorites like “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America,” to inspirational themes by John Williams, we hope that this program will bring our local military families together for a memorable night of celebration and remembrance.

You can find tickets to this celebratory concert on our website here.


How Musical Preference Intersects Music, Memory, And Emotion


Several psychological studies suggest that our musical preferences are not only motivated by emotional inclinations, but they are also linked to biological functions within our brain.

One study, conducted by Cambridge University’s David Greenberg, categorized people into three distinct personality groups: Type E Empathizers (emotional), Type S Systemizers (rules and systems) and Type B Balanced (in-between). Greenberg’s study showed significant differences between groups:

Type E thinkers tended to like low energy songs with emotional depth, including sad songs, and genres like soft rock and singer-songwriters. Type B personalities tended to display a broader range of preferences than either of the other types, not surprisingly. Type S thinkers, conversely, tended to prefer more intense and structured music like heavy metal—or classical music in the avant-garde vein.

While Greenberg’s findings are valid, could there be more to our musical preference than just our personality type or emotional state?

vinyl4.pngThe report’s other references point to how the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for processing emotion and memory, also affects our response to music based on how familiar a song is. Familiarity could be impacted by anything—how frequently a work is performed, who composed the work, or even what other people are saying about it. After all, it makes sense: if we enjoy a piece, we’ll want to hear it again and share it.

With this connection between personality, emotion, and familiarity in mind, it’s fun to consider the similarities between our favorite pop and classical works.  For instance, my favorite classical piece is easily Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony, with its grand orchestration and dramatic “fate” motif, but at the same time I love the soft sound of R&B artist Kehlani’s blues-ballad, “Bright”. Obviously, Tchaikovsky and Kehlani are two totally-separate artists, but they both share a passionate, emotionally-driven sound—the former with his musical themes and orchestration, and the latter with her lyrics—and easy-to-follow musical structures that resonate with me. The next time you listen to a song you like—be it a symphony or a pop tune—maybe you, too, can think about what it is that shapes your musical preference.


This article was written by Alison Huh, one of Pacific Symphony’s Marketing & PR interns. Alison will be a sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, where she studies English. She was formerly a member of Pacific Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, playing flute.

The Cat’s Meow! 8 Classical Selections Inspired by Feline Friends

031319_kitten_770x400Our friends over at Classic FM recently put together a playlist of feline-inspired classical pieces – some pleasant levity for your summer weekend! Below, we’ve included all of them as YouTube links, in case you don’t have Spotify Premium. Enjoy!

What animals have nine lives and are beloved by the internet and classical composers alike? Cats, cats, and — you guessed it — more cats. While kitties are favored in contemporary popular culture (memes, viral videos, #Instagram), they have also long dominated the hearts of humans throughout history and are reflected through past art and music.


Scarlatti: The Cat’s Fugue

Rossini: Cat’s Duet

Confrey: Kitten on the Keys

Prokofiev: The Cat (from “Peter and the Wolf”)

Fauré: Mi-A-Ou (from “Dolly”)

Anderson: The Waltzing Cat

Saint-Saëns: The Royal March of the Lion (from “Carnival of the Animals”)

Webber: Memories (from “Cats”)


Associate Conductor Roger Kalia Signs 3-Year Contract to Serve as OSM’s Music Director Through 2021-22 Season

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Associate conductor Roger Kalia recently shared some exciting personal news, in regards to his position as Music Director at Orchestra Santa Monica. The orchestra was founded back in 2012 by Dr. Allen Robert Gross, who served as the orchestra’s Music Director for six years. After Dr. Gross’ retirement in May 2018, Roger Kalia was selected as OSM’s new Music Director.

“My first season with OSM has been a true joy,” says Kalia. “I have enjoyed making music with our dedicated musicians, and working with our fantastic board of directors. We have such a wonderful orchestra, and I am extremely grateful to the Santa Monica community for your continued love and support. We have an amazing variety of music and guest artists planned for next season, and there is a great deal to look forward to. It is an honor to be your music director.”

OSM President Cindy Bandel shares Kalia’s excitement. “Roger is a true artist and our board, musicians, and audience members are all very enthusiastic about his leadership, talent, energy, and ideas. This three-year contract provides us with a good foundation for growth, both musically and organizationally, and we are all very happy to have a bright outlook for OSM!”

If you’d like to learn more about Orchestra Santa Monica, please check out their website!