John Williams: Maestro of the Movies 40th Anniversary Celebration

Maestro John Williams Celebrates 40 Years Since Making Conducting Debut at the Hollywood Bowl

This weekend John Williams is celebrating 40 years of conducting at the Hollywood Bowl. The famed composer and conductor first conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1978. It also marked his first time conducting for the public. He would go on to become one of the world’s most famous conductors. At the same time, he revolutionized how soundtracks were written and movies were made. Through the last 45 years, he also partnered with filmmaker Steven Speilberg. This weekend is not only a celebration of Williams conducting at the Hollywood Bowl, it is also a celebration of this collaboration. Together they have made some of the most iconic film moments.


The concert began with conductor David Newman sharing how John Williams impacted the world of professional music. He brought soundtracks from something that was not respected into the concert world that is known and loved today. He then began the concert with the Olympic Fanfare and Theme. The Los Angeles Philharmonic was joined by the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets. It made for a spectacular opening number. As they played, Olympic scenes were projected on the screens above and to the sides. The video started with the 1984 Olympics, for which the song was composed, and then continued through the most recent. The first half of the concert was conducted by Newman and was a wonderful collection of both John Williams music and also that of Leonard Bernstein. 2018 is the centennial of Bernstein.

Video was played along with the music at times during the concert. Sometimes it was directly from a movie, like with Raiders of the Lost Ark. Other times it was a montage. For West Side Story, it was a montage from the film.

Playlist of the First Half of John Williams: Maestro of the Movies 40th Anniversary Celebration

  • Olympic Fanfare and Theme (with film)
  • “The Cave Sequence” from Raiders of the Lost Ark (with film)
  • “A New Beginning” from Minority Report
  • “Flight to Neverland” from Hook (with film)
  • Celebrating the Bernstein Centennial
    • To Lenny! To Lenny!
    • Overture from West Side Story (with film)
    • Suite from On the Waterfront


After the intermission, John Williams took the podium. He began the second half with the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme. This was met with great enthusiasm. The entire bowl was filled with electricity as this iconic music was performed under the baton of this iconic man. He then invited filmmaker and friend Steven Spielberg to the stage.


Spielberg shared a bit about the history of filmmaking and the importance of music to it. Throughout the second half of the program, Spielberg continued to share anecdotes about the music, John Williams, and the films they made together. The stories and thoughts added quite a bit of depth to the music that was being performed. There was also something quite powerful seeing these two men who were such close friends and collaborators share the stage. Spielberg made it very clear that his collaboration with Williams was crucial to the success of their movies. The mutual admiration and love were readily apparent and wonderful to watch.

During this second half of the program, film clips were also utilized with the music. The highlight for the film clips was easily “The Circus Train Chase” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This scene was set up by Spielberg before it was played without music. Spielberg had some funny commentary throughout. Then Williams and the Los Angeles Philharmonic accompanied the scene. It was amazing what a difference it made. Not only did it feel complete, it felt shorter! Different dueling scenes from across all of moviedom were shown during “The Duel” from The Adventures of Tintin. And during the Finale from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the entire end of the film was shown. It was powerful, to say the least. It added quite a bit of depth to the movie-viewing experience.

“Film music gives every moment on the screen a lift because it directs all the traffic of our emotions. When a staggering performance fills our eyes with tears, the appropriate score can make those tears fall. And I can direct bicycles to fly but music truly makes them air born and fills us with wonder. And that’s the miracle of our shared mediums and that’s where E.T got its soul” – Steven Spielberg introducing the finale of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. 


Playlist of the Second Half of John Williams: Maestro of the Movies 40th Anniversary Celebration

  • “Raiders March” from Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • “With Malice Toward None” From Lincoln
  • “The Circus Train Chase” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (with film)
  • “The Duel” from The Adventures of Tintin (with film)
  • Theme from Schindler’s List
  • Finale from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (with film)

After what was programmed for the concert, John Williams provided an incredible encore. He began by setting it up by briefly talking about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He talked about Luke Skywalker and how the Rebellion was born before leading the L.A. Philharmonic in playing The Rebellion is Reborn from that film. After that, the main theme from Star Wars was played. It was incredible. The night was capped off with the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets returning as John Williams conducting The Imperial March. All three of these pieces were met with tremendous excitement from the audience and lightsabers swaying to the music.


As the concert drew to a close, Williams invited Newman and Spielberg back onto the stage for a final bow. As the audience erupted in approval, it was hard not to feel how special this moment was. It was the culmination of 40 years of John Williams conducting at the Hollywood Bowl. It also was the celebration of 45 years of collaboration between John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Together, they literally wrote the book on movie and soundtrack making over the last 4, nearly 5, decades. Seeing them collaborate in person on stage was breathtaking.

Every concert at the Hollywood Bowl is special. It is a magical place. However, seeing John Williams conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic is something even more special. He is one of the most accomplished and successful composers of all time for both film and also the concert stage. Williams has composed for and served as music director for over 100 films during his more than a five-decade career. He is a walking legend. Seeing him perform the music he has composed was one of the most magical experiences a music and film lover can have. John Williams and the music he creates is a treasure. John Williams: Maestro of the Movies 40th Anniversary Celebration is a concert I won’t forget for a very long time. It was absolutely incredible and I sincerely hope that I get to see him perform again someday.