In a career spanning more than six decades, John Williams has become one of America’s most accomplished and successful composers for film and for the concert stage, and he remains one of our nation’s most distinguished and contributive musical voices. He has composed the music for more than 100 films, including all nine Star Wars films, the first three Harry Potter films, Superman, Memoirs of a Geisha, Home Alone, and The Book Thief. His nearly 50-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, Lincoln, The BFG, and The Post. Mr. Williams has composed themes for four Olympic Games. He served as music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra for 14 seasons and remains their Laureate Conductor. He has composed numerous works for the concert stage including two symphonies and concertos commissioned by many of America’s most prominent orchestras. Mr. Williams has received five Academy Awards and 52 Oscar nominations (making him the second-most nominated person in the history of the Oscars), seven British Academy Awards, 25 Grammys, four Golden Globes, and five Emmys. In 2003, he received the Olympic Order (the IOC’s highest honor) for his contributions to the Olympic movement. In 2004, he received the Kennedy Center Honors, and in 2009 he received the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the US government. In 2016, he received the 44th Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute—the first time a composer was honored with this award. And in 2020, he received Spain’s Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts as well as the Gold Medal from the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society in the UK.
EMIL DE COU, CONDUCTOR
American conductor Emil de Cou is currently the music director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet and appears regularly with orchestras across the country. After his debut with the National Symphony Orchestra in 2000, he joined the orchestra as associate conductor and led the NSO on national tours and at the US Capitol Building. He has remained a regular figure at The Kennedy Center since his first performances there in 1988. His tenure as principal conductor for the NSO’s Wolf Trap performances included the world premiere screenings of The Wizard of Oz with a live orchestra. He also led the NSO in the Wolf Trap premiere of NASA’s production of Holst’s The Planets narrated by Leonard Nimoy, as well as performances with Joshua Bell, Kiri Te Kanawa, Renee Fleming, James Gallway, and others. He has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra several times for holiday, pops, and movie concerts and will conduct their final Ravinia performance in August 2022 in an all-Tchaikovsky concert.
As part of his work as musical consultant for NASA, he has conducted several collaborations with the nation’s space agency, including Human Spaceflight: The Kennedy Legacy, at The Kennedy Center in honor of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s declaration to land a man on the moon. Prior to the performance of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Wolf Trap hosted a pre-performance discussion to mark the 45th anniversary of the moon landing, which featured Buzz Aldrin, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, and de Cou in a talk about the arts and space exploration. In 2019, de Cou led the NSO in performances co-produced by The Kennedy Center and NASA leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, including a premiere work by Michael Giacchino (Voyage) and featuring guest performers will.i.am and John Cho. In co-production with NASA, de Cou conducted the concert Vital Signs of the Planet at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2021. For his ongoing work with NASA, de Cou was awarded the agency’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal by Administrator Charlie Bolden, the first musician to be so honored.
Emil de Cou was hired by Mikhail Baryshnikov to be the conductor of the American Ballet Theatre for eight seasons, conducting performances at Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, as well as on national and international tours. His performance of the ballet Othello was aired on Great Performances (PBS), and the soundtrack by Academy Award-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal was recorded by de Cou for Varese Sarabande; among his other recordings is Debussy Rediscovered for Arabesque Recordings, which includes previously unrecorded works by Debussy and Charles Griffes. He also conducted the world premiere of his reconstruction of the original version of Debussy’s Printemps with the NSO and the Cathedral Choral Society at the National Cathedral.
Emil de Cou has appeared with some of the country’s leading orchestras such as those of Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Saint Louis, and the Boston Pops. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2006 with the New York Pops Orchestra and was the Principal Pops Conductor for the San Francisco Symphony. He was born in Los Angeles, studied with Daniel Lewis at the University of Southern California, and was chosen to study in Leonard Bernstein’s master class at the Hollywood Bowl. He makes his home in San Francisco and Seattle with his husband, conductor Leif Bjaland.