The Apprenticeship of John Williams

John Williams made his first impressions playing piano in jazz clubs and for film and television.

If you weren’t tuned in to the world of film music in the 1970s, the blockbuster score for 1977’s Star Wars was a revelation. But to those in the know, the work was no surprise – John Williams had been a growing presence in the world of film and television music for some years.

As a young man, “Johnny” Williams studied music in school before a stint as a musician and arranger in the US Air Force in the 1950s. After his service, he aspired to be a concert pianist but shifted his sights to composition during his studies at the Julliard School.

Rhythm in Motion, 1961

Moving to Hollywood, Williams found work as an orchestrator and session musician, where he had the opportunity to work with composers like Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, and Alfred Newman. As a pianist, he released several jazz albums; played on soundtracks for Charade (1963), West Side Story (1961), The Days of Wine and Roses (1962), plus the iconic theme for television show Peter Gunn.

By the 1960s, Williams was a fixture in television and movie scoring. Success followed, with several Academy Award nominations in the late 1960s, and his first Oscar for the musical adaptation of the score for 1971’s Fiddler on the Roof. The rest is history.

This week’s episode of The Silver Screen Soundtrack Hour dives into the early works of the maestro, leading up to his blockbuster score for Jaws, in 1975. Join us!

Produced and hosted by Ken Nail, The Silver Screen Soundtrack Hour airs on every Thursday at 9 AM and 6 PM, plus Saturdays at Noon. Visit our Facebook page, or contact Ken on Twitter at @ken_classical.

Tags: , , , , ,


Become a Sponsor

Underwriting WTJU is a way to broadly share information about your business. It’s also a way for your business or organization to gain community-wide recognition for your support of WTJU’s community mission.

Underwrite a Program


Your gift nourishes our community and helps bring people together through music.

Underwrite a Program