John Williams In Conversation with Deborah Rutter (Video)

An in-depth 30-minute talk with Maestro John Williams by Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter

Last June, John Williams was the guest of honour at The Kennedy Center for a three-day music festival celebrating his milestone 90th birthday. The event included an exclusive 90th Birthday Gala concert by the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stéphane Denève with the participation of very special guests: Anne-Sophie Mutter, Yo-Yo Ma, Steven Spielberg, Daisy Ridley and field athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee. It was a memorable night, which included world-class performances of both Williams’ beloved film themes (E.T., Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Star Wars) and excerpts from his works for the concert stage. It wasn’t just a concert night like many others, but a heartfelt and stirring celebration of a life’s work of one of the most beloved musical citizen of the world.

The Gala concert was bookended by two live-to-picture performances of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Jurassic Park, with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Steven Reineke. As a special gift to the audience, Maestro Williams showed up on stage to take a bow at the end of both performances, which tributed his craft as a master film composer in two of the most stirring and successful collaborations with director Steven Spielberg.

John Williams enjoys a moment during the 90th Birthday Gala in his honour at the Kennedy Center 90th Birhday Gala in Washington D.C. on June 23, 2022 (Photo © Scott Suchman / Kennedy Center)

Before the performance of Jurassic Park on June 24, John Williams sat down for a rare 30-minute Q&A with Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. During the conversation, Williams illuminates on his life as a musician, the journey that led him to become a composer and what makes the art of music really special for him. It’s perhaps one of the most insightful, fun and inspiring talks that Maestro Williams ever gave in public. It’s always a treat to hear Williams talking about his work and learn his thoughts on music, as he’s always giving and forthcoming with words as he is with music notes.

“Few people have been more influential in American music than John Williams,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “On a personal level, I have known John for nearly four decades and have had the good fortune of working with him in my roles at various orchestras across the country. I’m humbled by John’s enthusiasm to hold his 90th birthday celebration here at the Kennedy Center during our 50th anniversary season, and delighted that in celebrating him, we are also launching a new fund for music education—something about which John is incredibly passionate. He is a lifelong friend of musicians and a staunch advocate for music education at all ages.”

Stéphane Denève conducts the NSO and Anne-Sophie Mutter on the John Williams 90th Birthday Gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. on June 23, 2022 (Photo © Scott Suchman / Kennedy Center)

As the NSO statement reveals, “Funds raised through sponsorships of The 90th Birthday Gala Concert will support the NSO Music Education Endowment which will provide ongoing support for the NSO’s wide-ranging education programs, offered to students and children of all ages for free or at low-cost, at the Kennedy Center, in schools, and online. NSO education programs impact approximately 44,000 children, families, and the next generation of musicians and professionals annually, including programs ranging from Young People’s Concerts for students in grades 3-8 around the metropolitan Washington D.C. region, NSO Family Concerts, the NSO Youth Fellowship Program for high school musicians seeking a career in music, In-School Ensembles, and the NSO Summer Music Institute, which attracts musicians ages 15-22 from the U.S. and abroad.”

This is another shining example of Williams’ generosity as an artist and as a human being, who keeps inspiring people of all ages through his craft and talent. His legacy cannot be stronger enough.

John Williams conducts the final encore (“The Imperial March”) on the 90th Birthday Gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. on June 23, 2022 (Photo © Scott Suchman / Kennedy Center)