A Cinematic Symphony

By Steven Libowitz   |   March 21, 2023
Rei Hotoda will conduct the Santa Barbara Symphony playing John Williams’ iconic movie tunes in their upcoming concert on March 18-19

Hollywood has never had a more decorated composer than John Williams. The now 91-year-old music maker has composed the music and served as music director for more than 100 films including all nine Star Wars movies, the first three Harry Potter films, Superman, Jaws, Home Alone, Schindler’s List, E.T. The ExtraTerrestrial, Jurassic Park and all of the Indiana Jonesfilms. Williams has been nominated for 52 Academy Awards – including this year with The Fabelmans, the latest in the composer’s 45-year collaboration with director Steven Spielberg – making him the Academy’s second most-nominated person in its history (after Walt Disney). In addition to taking home five Oscars, Williams also has 25 Grammys to his credit. 

Williams’ instantly recognizable themes are staples of symphonic pops concerts across the country and around the world, and nary a New Year’s Eve goes by without our very own Santa Barbara Symphony taking on at least one musical movie moment created by Williams at the Granada. This weekend, the orchestra devotes its pair of concerts exclusively to celebrating the cinematic accomplishments of the composer in a special show that should evoke lots of memories. 

The local orchestra does have something else that sets it apart from nearly all others, however. That would be the fact that several Santa Barbara Symphony musicians come our way monthly from Los Angeles and environs, where they make most of their living as studio musicians for film and TV, including multiple regulars for recording Williams’ scores under the composer’s baton. That includes concertmaster Jessica Guideri, principal violist Erik Rynearson, principal cello Trevor Handy, principal oboist Lara Wickes, principal horn player Teag Reaves, principal clarinetist Don Foster, and principal trumpeter Jon Lewis, the latter two of whom have been with Williams for decades. 

We caught up with Guideri to get the lowdown on a tribute to Williams slated for March 18-19, with current Music Director Fresno Philharmonic Rei Hotoda serving as guest conductor. 

Q. What’s it like to record a soundtrack with John Williams?

A. As studio musicians, we have sessions pretty much more or less every day. But when it’s a John Williams session, no one turns it down. His music is just unbelievable – it’s incredible how much energy he has, and he’s always so respectful of the orchestra. I’ve been lucky enough to play in a lot of his movies, but the first time he scored a Star Wars movie in L.A. (rather than London) it was so incredibly exciting to do. All of us have played these themes in pop concerts forever, but now we had the opportunity to play them for the actual movie and the new ones, which you know will become staples down the road. 

Do you have a favorite? 

The most recent one is the next Indiana Jonesmovie (Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, opening in June), and that holds a special place in my heart because I’ve watched all the Indiana Jones movies many times. My dad was such a big fan, so every time one was on TV, he would have us all watch it, so there’s a lot of nostalgia, and it was super-cool to play. 

Do you still get a thrill out of seeing one of the movies you’ve played on when they screen?

It’s pretty cool, but what’s better is that recently they’ve started putting the musicians’ names in the credits, and it’s cute and fun when others get excited. My brother was excited to see my name at the end of The Mandalorian, and my niece goes crazy for both the movie and the music of The Greatest Showman, and she thought it was awesome that I am on the soundtrack. I’ve done them so many times I forget which ones, but then there are some that I definitely go to see in the theater because I played in it. 

Visit https://thesymphony.org for more information and tickets.


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