The Significance of a Legacy


This simple picture sums up what this blog is about and the purpose at its core. An old saying recites “a picture is worth a thousand words”. That is what comes to mind seeing such a lovely picture from 2016 (courtesy of Gloria Cheng).

The impact John Williams’ music has on young people is probably one of his most lasting legacies. Seeing the Maestro surrounded by so many young music students (namely, from the music program at the UCLA School of Music) is a view that warms the heart.

Williams, like other great artists, is aware of the need of giving back insights, knowledge and wisdom to young people venturing into the world of music-making. Over the years, he devoted quite a bit of time meeting young music students and working with youth orchestras in the United States. A lot of those youngsters probably picked up an instrument, or choose to study composition, after falling in love with the music of John Williams. However, Williams doesn’t imbibe himself in recognition and mere admiration, but instead always gives back insight, to push young musicians to become even better at their art.

Mira Magrill, principal flute of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra, spoke about all this in a video from 2012, where she recalls the experience of premiering the suite from War Horse (2011) with Williams himself conducting:

Williams is one of the artistic advisors of the Young Musicians Foundation, a testament of his devotion to give back knowledge and musicianship to a younger generation:

“My favorite part of YMF is the ‘Y,’ for young. Young musicians — it’s a category that I don’t fall into chronologically.
Working with them is like a handshake across a generation or two.”

 — John Williams
It’s a sign of immense generosity, coming from a composer who is still giving the world an immense amount of his creative energy and still writing music fully imbued with youthful vigour and enthusiasm.
Recently, he also spoke about his time spent working with the students of the USC Thornton School of Music, where he conducted the resident orchestra:
Another American musical icon, Leonard Bernstein, spent a great deal of his life teaching and lecturing young students (and overall music lovers, with the historic series Young People’s Concerts at the New York Philharmonic) because he felt a great deal of responsibility in paying back what he learned:
The best way I can think of for me to do this is by paying tribute to some of my own teachers, who over the last 30 years or so, have given me so much joy and inspiration.
 — Leonard Bernstein
And before Leonard Bernstein, another great American composer, Aaron Copland, spent quite an amount of time with young music students at the Tanglewood Music Center. In 1939, he also wrote a fantastic book, What to Listen for in Music, a beautiful educational read that gives everyone, from the layman to the connoisseur, a deeper appreciation of the great legacy of classical music.
John Williams follows a path established by other great composers before him, who paved the way for passing knowledge and wisdom, with the profound awareness that music truly lives on if we are able to share it, openly and joyously, with everyone on the planet.