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  • Writer's pictureLourdes de la Peña

Happy Birthday John Williams

Have you ever watched a movie and without even thinking about it, your eye shed a tear? Your heart beat a little faster? Your head nodded? Your foot started tapping? You felt an overwhelming wave of emotion that you couldn't even describe? Have you ever thought about why that is? The soundtrack is one of the main ways our minds can so easily escape into the fictional world of a movie. In fact, we feel the music so deeply that we can keep humming a movie theme songs for years.

Growing up, some of my favorite memories were watching Home Alone with my older brother, playing the Star Wars and Up theme songs on my cello with my sister on the piano, and hearing one of my best friends tell me over 20 times time in 6th grade how she will forever be terrified of sharks because she saw Jaws.

These memories all converged last year- the day I played at John Williams' 90th Birthday Celebration at the Kennedy Center.

The National Symphony Orchestra began the evening by playing a full concert featuring guest artists Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yo-Yo Ma.

Star Wars Actress Daisy Ridley, six-time Olympic Athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Director Steven Spielberg shared heart-warming stories of how John Williams profoundly impacted their lives. The most touching part of the concert for me was hearing the late Kobe Bryant's wife, Vanessa, express her gratitude to John Williams for writing the soundtrack to Kobe's short film Dear Basketball. (I met Kobe in 2018 and that day had a tremendous impact on me.)

At the private dinner that followed the concert, I, along with two other cellists, had the honor of performing Happy Birthday for John Williams as they wheeled out the massive cake.

He was sitting at the table right in front of us. Until that moment, I had always thought of the music from the movies of my childhood as abstract sounds. That night, I attached those memories and sounds to a person.

Steven Spielberg, who has made 27 movies with John Williams, sums up John Williams' contribution to society best when he said, “Without John Williams, bikes don't really fly, nor do brooms in Quidditch matches, nor do men in red capes. There is no Force, dinosaurs do not walk the Earth, we do not wonder, we do not weep, we do not believe.”

Happy Birthday John Williams! Thank you from all of us at StringTime.

With Joy,

Lourdes de la Peña and the StringTime Family

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