L.A. Studio Legends: Louise Di Tullio

Legendary flutist talks her incredible career as a performing artist, the legacy of her own musical family, the phenomenal streak of work as a studio musician in Hollywood and her many collaborations with John Williams on such iconic scores as Hook, Jurassic Park, War Horse and many others.

Hosted by Maurizio Caschetto

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Flutist Louise Di Tullio is one of the true icons among the generation of musicians performing in the Los Angeles area who came on the scene between the late 1950s and early 1960s. In an amazing career spanning almost six decades, Louise performed both as a world-class classical player and studio musician, often in the position of principal flute, for countless film scores, recording projects and live performances.

A native of Los Angeles, Louise Di Tullio comes from a family of very distinguished musicians who had incredible careers as classical players and studio musicians. Her father, Joseph Di Tullio, was an acclaimed cellist who joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1927 and remained member there for 20 years. During World War II Joseph entered the motion picture industry, first at Warner Bros. (playing under Max Steiner among others) and then at 20th Century Fox, where he remained on contract from 1948 to 1970. During that time, he performed under the baton of many great film composers, including Alfred Newman.

Joseph Di Tullio (right) playing in the 20th Century Fox Orchestra (Photo courtesy of Ronald Royer)

Louise started to play flute at a very young age and soon began to take lessons to become a professional musician. Studio flutist Sheridon Stokes, who was performing with Louise’s father in the Fox orchestra, was one of her teachers, as also were legendary flutists Haakon Bergh and Arthur Gleghorn. Louise formed a chamber music trio – the Di Tullio Trio – with his father Joe and her sister Virginia (an accomplished pianist). The trio performed extensively on the west coast of the US and was chosen to play the opening concert of the first Brand Library Concert Series in Glendale, where they all lived. “I grew up as a musician with the support, encouragement, and advice of my father, several uncles, and cousins–all busy, working professionals,” wrote Louise in 2009 in the booklet notes of her own solo album The Hollywood Flute.

The Di Tullio Trio (l-r): Joseph Di Tullio, Louise Di Tullio, Virginia Di Tullio (Photo courtesy of Ronald Royer)

Before reaching the age of 20, Louise joined the LA Philharmonic, playing piccolo in the flute section, following in the footsteps of her father and two uncles.  During this same period, Louise performed as Principal Flute with the Columbia Symphony, recording many of Igor Stravinsky’s works under the baton of the composer released in the mid-to-late 1960s. After six years with the Philharmonic, she found success in all aspects of the recording world. The intense parallel lives as classical player and studio musician that characterized her family soon became part of her own musical world too. Louise started to perform in Hollywood studio orchestras, mostly as a piccolo player, playing on many television scores for such shows as Hawaii Five-O, Gunsmoke, Little House in the Prairie, and The Waltons, and began to be contracted regularly in orchestras playing for high-profile film composers including Alfred Newman, Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry, Lalo Schifrin and of course John Williams.

Louise’s first session with John Williams dates back in 1969 for the score for The Reivers. From that moment onward, she became a regular in the section as piccolo player and 2nd flute for the Maestro. You can hear Louise’s playing, often performing both delicate and virtuosic piccolo parts, on such iconic scores as The Cowboys, The Towering Inferno, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Fury, 1941 and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial—it’s her performing the haunting lyrical piccolo line under the starry night sky that opens Steven Spielberg’s 1982 magnum opus.

Louise Di Tullio played the piccolo line that opens John Williams’ Academy Award-winning score for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

In 1990, Louise inherited the first chair from Sheridon Stokes as principal flute for John Williams and from this moment onward her career as studio musician became the stuff of legend. She was immediately put under the spotlight performing many difficult solos in the score of Hook, which Louise still mentions as the most challenging music she has ever performed during her long career a studio musician. “John Williams always pushes the limit of his orchestra with every new score,” said Louise, “keeping his players on the edge while creating a great sense of excitement.”

The moving flute solo, performed by Louise Di Tullio, accompanying the “face of Peter Pan” sequence in Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991)

As principal flute, Louise Di Tullio can be heard performing on many John Williams’ scores since 1990, including Home Alone 1 and 2, Hook, JFK, Far and Away, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Rosewood, Seven Years in Tibet, The Patriot, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, War of the Worlds, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Adventures of Tintin, and The Book Thief.

John Williams, Louise Di Tullio and Steven Spielberg (Photo by David Weiss, courtesy of Louise Di Tullio)

In 2011, Williams gave Louise a huge solo part on the score for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, also obtaining a credit in the film’s end titles. For that score, she performed a soulful flute solo that becomes the voice of Joey, the horse protagonist of the film, and also giving character to the bucolic scenery of the beautiful English countryside, amplified by Williams’ rich pastoral writing for flute and strings.

War Horse got an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score and Williams prepared a concert suite for flute solo and orchestra that is now a staple of his repertoire. This score is one of the many examples of John Williams being inspired by the artistry of such world-class players as Louise Di Tullio, and how much these musicians give back to him through their incredible playing. Williams has always praised Di Tullio’s musicianship, putting her “in the very front rank among the world’s great flutists”. Louise often performed in the section for John Williams together with Jim Walker and Geraldine Rotella (who became Williams’ piccolo player of choice upon Louise’s suggestion).

“Louise Di Tullio is in the very front rank among the world’s great flutists.”

John Williams

Besides her work in countless John Williams’ scores, Louise Di Tullio served as principal flute for many other great film composers, including Jerry Goldsmith. She was one of Jerry’s favourite musicians, performing piccolo for many years on many scores (including the iconic solo on Patton) and subsequently moved to the 1st flute chair, playing touching, lyrical solos on such scores as Sleeping with the Enemy and Rudy. According to Louise, “Jerry always demanded excellence from his musicians. He was not only an artist, but a consummate professional as well.”

In 1990, Louise played several prominent lyrical flute solos on John Barry’s Academy Award-winning score for Dances with Wolves, and performed lots of solos and 1st flute parts for many other top film composers including Elmer Bernstein, James Horner, Randy Newman, Alan Silvestri, Bill Conti, James Newton Howard, Bruce Broughton, Danny Elfman, Michael Kamen, Thomas Newman. She also performed an extended flute solo on the recording of Danny Elfman’s concert work Serenada Schizophrana conducted by John Mauceri. Over the course of her extraordinary career, Louise performed on more than 1,200 motion pictures and tv films, including some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed hits of the last 50 years.

In addition to her film work, Louise can be heard also on the albums of major stars including Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Kenny G and Michael Jackson. She has also performed on numerous classical recordings ranging from chamber music to a concerto album with the English Chamber Orchestra. Her impressive career as a recording artist was recognized with the “Most Valuable Player” award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for the years 1975-1978 and received the Emeritus Award in 1980.

Louise Di Tullio with bass flute, alto flute, regular flute and piccolo (Photo courtesy of Ronald Royer)

In 2009, Louise produced and released her first and only solo recording, The Hollywood Flute of Louise Di Tullio. In partnership with her nephew Ronald Royer (son of her sister Virginia and an accomplished cellist and composer), Louise put together a collection of suites and themes from some of her favourite film scores where she performed as principal flute, including John Williams’ Hook, Jerry Goldsmith’s Rudy and Sleeping with the Enemy, Danny Elfman’s Charlotte’s Web, and John Barry’s Dances with Wolves. The album also features Le papillon (The Butterfly), a flute solo piece written for Louise in 1980 by late composer David Rose; The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Laurence Rosenthal; and Short Stories by Ronald Royer, a brand new composition for flutes, harp, strings and percussion commissioned by Louise specifically for this recording.

The album The Hollywood Flute, featuring Louise Di Tullio performing suites and themes from some of her favourite film scores by John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry, Danny Elfman, plus compositions by David Rose, Laurence Rosenthal and Ronald Royer

Even during the years of her most intense activity as a studio player, Louise Di Tullio continued to perform as a classical musician. She has held the Principal Flute position in many Los Angeles area orchestras, including the Pacific Symphony, the Pasadena Symphony, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. She has appeared as soloist with many orchestras across the US, including the Boston Pops, the Pacific Symphony, the Pasadena Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Mexico City Symphony and the Carmel Bach Festival.

Like many of her family members, Louise devoted part of her musical life to teaching. She has served on the faculties of the University of Southern California, the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and California Sate University at Fullerton. Several of her students now occupy the Principal Flute chairs in a number of major symphony orchestras and fill the ranks of working flutists throughout the United States.

Louise is now retired and currently lives in Oregon with her husband Burnette Dillon (an accomplished studio trumpet player who also performed on several John Williams’ scores over the years).

Louise Di Tullio playing piccolo during a concert (Photo courtesy of Ronald Royer)

In this conversation, Louise reminisces for the first time since many years about the legacy of her extraordinary musical family, the first steps as a classical player, including performing under Igor Stravinsky. Louise talks extensively about her many years recording film scores with John Williams, from her first experiences playing piccolo on The Reivers and Jaws, to her playing as principal flute on scores like Hook, Jurassic Park and War Horse, recollecting many memories and sharing her point of view about the music and the art of Maestro John Williams.

Special thanks to Sheridon Stokes, Ronald Royer and to the lovely Louise Di Tullio.

Visit Louise’s official website www.louiseditullio.com for more information about her life and career


List of musical excerpts featured in the episodes (all music by John Williams except where noted)

. “Far From Home / E.T. Alone” from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
. “Granny Wendy” from Hook (1991)
. Igor Stravinsky, The Firebird Suite – Scherzo. Dance of the Princess (Revised 1945 Version), Columbia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Igor Stravinsky, from the recording Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: The Ballets, CBS/Sony Classical (1967)
. “The History Lesson” from Jurassic Park (1991)
. “The Homecoming” from War Horse (2011)
. Jacques Ibert, “Entr’acte” for flute and harp, from the album Sonatas for Flute and Harp, Klavier Records (1989) – Louise Di Tullio, flute; Susann McDonald, harp
. Alfred Newman, “The Map of Jerusalem” from The Robe (1954), original motion picture soundtrack, 20th Century Fox Orchestra conducted by Alfred Newman
. Igor Stravinsky, The Firebird Suite – Variations (Firebird) (Revised 1945 Version), Columbia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Igor Stravinsky, from the recording Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: The Ballets, CBS/Sony Classical (1967)
. Igor Stravinsky, The Fairy’s Kiss – Ballet in 4 Scenes: Scene 1: Prologue. The Lullaby in the Storm; Columbia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Igor Stravinsky, from the recording Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: The Ballets, CBS/Sony Classical (1967)
. “Family Funeral / Lucius’ First Drive” from The Reivers (1969)
. “Out to Sea” and “Man Against Beast” from Jaws (1975)
. “To the Manteinance Shed” from Jurassic Park (1993)
. Bill Conti, “Virgilia’s Things” from North and South (1985), original television soundtrack
. “Far From Home / E.T. Alone” and “End Credits” from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
. “The Face of Pan”, “The Arrival of Tink and the Flight to Neverland”, “The Lost Boy Chase”, “Farewell Neverland” from Hook (1991)
. “Dartmoor, 1912”, “The Homecoming”, “Plowing” from War Horse (2011)
. “Finale” from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
. “The Pursuit of the Falcon” from The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (2011)
. “Shannon is Shot”, “The Race to the River” from Far and Away (1992)
. “The Arrival of Tink and the Flight to Neverland” from Hook (1991)
. “Theme” from Jurassic Park (1993)
. “End Credits” from Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
. “Remembrances (Alternate)” from Schindler’s List (1993)
. Hook Suite for flute and chamber orchestra (arr. Mark Watters): II. You Are The Pan, When You’re Alone; Sinfonia Toronto conducted by Ronald Royer, from the album The Hollywood Flute of Louise Di Tullio, Cambria Records (2009)
. Hook Suite for flute and chamber orchestra (arr. Mark Watters): I. Prologue, Granny Wendy, The Arrival of Tink and the Flight to Neverland; Sinfonia Toronto conducted by Ronald Royer, from the album The Hollywood Flute of Louise Di Tullio, Cambria Records (2009)
. Jerry Goldsmith, Theme from Rudy, for flute and chamber orchestra (arr. Ronald Royer), Sinfonia Toronto conducted by Ronald Royer, from the album The Hollywood Flute of Louise Di Tullio, Cambria Records (2009)
. Jerry Goldsmith, Theme from Sleeping with the Enemy, for flute and chamber orchestra (arr. Ronald Royer), Sinfonia Toronto conducted by Ronald Royer, from the album The Hollywood Flute of Louise Di Tullio, Cambria Records (2009)
. John Barry, “Two Socks – The Wolf Theme” from Dances with Wolves (1990), original motion picture soundtrack
. “The Homecoming” from War Horse (2011)


Listen to the playlist curated by The Legacy of John Williams editor Maurizio Caschetto featuring some of Louise Di Tullio’s best playing for John Williams and other great composers: