Imperial Jurassic Jaws

Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra performs the music of John Williams

By Emma Jarman

In the world of film in music, John Williams reigns supreme. The American composer has scored countless numbers for movies, television series, Olympic fanfares, concertos and other orchestral works. He holds the second most number of Academy Award nominations behind Walt Disney with 50 nominations through his 60-year career. Some of Williams’ most recognizable work is found in movies, which include the Star Wars series, “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Schindler’s List.”

The Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra will be honoring Williams with their presentation of Movie Magic: Music of John Williams, a 90-minute compilation of a few of his movie scores, as well as the 1984 Olympic Fanfare composition. MVSO Music Director David Deitrick and his team of near 70 musicians are expected to perform music from five Williams-scored movies. Interestingly, Deitrick had the opportunity in 1984 to perform the Olympic Fanfare theme composed and directed by Williams at the Los Angeles Opening Ceremony, so that will be included on the bulletin as well (fitting as it is currently an Olympic year).

“It’s mostly a movie theme,” Deitrick says. “[Williams] has written so many great scores. The largest body of his music was written in film scores. That’s what people are familiar with, and it’s what we’re concentrating on in this particular program.

“There’s so much material! I just thought for this first opportunity to do this we would hit the ones that are particularly well known,” Deitrick expresses. “[And Williams] is still writing. Like I said what most people are familiar with are his film music but he’s written a lot of very wonderful other music and hopefully someday in the future we’ll be able to explore some of his other music.”

As expected from America’s most prolific composer, Williams music is quite technically difficult. The MVSO has been rehearsing since the beginning of the holidays and will have two months of practice under their metaphorical belts, but they are accustomed to performing difficult pieces so Deitrick is confident in the caliber of their performance.

“There are some very technical demands in here on the players,” he says. “So we’ve been working very hard on the technical passages so we can get past the notes and we can express what the composer is trying to say. It can sound very fragmented if you really don’t have a sense of how all the parts fit together. There are some very, very difficult things. But [Williams] also has some very quiet, emotion passages. Things like the [Princess] Leia theme [from Star Wars], which is very warm and wonderful, and you really want to make sure that you express that in the way he intended.”

Yet with overcoming challenges comes a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

“I’ve been conducting for many, many years and it’s always a challenge when you’re putting 60-70 people together and getting everyone to think along the same lines,” continues Deitrick. “But it’s also part of the fun of the process; merging all of these different instruments and different personalities together into one big product.”

Viewers can look forward to a family-friendly show with multimedia aspects including images from the films flashing on a screen above the orchestra. Still, particularly in this case, family-friendly does not mean only children can enjoy it while adults grin and bear the duration of the production. The impressive technicality of the music, the nostalgic experience of live performance of old-time favorites and the overall quality of the music all add to the heir of approachable significance the symphony expects to provide.

John Williams’ music eclipses geography and generation, delighting audiences young and old around the world for decades past and to come. In the scope of Dayton arts, the score matches the theme of the community. The lasting power of the music reflects the lasting power of Dayton’s emphasis on the arts, music and movies.

“The whole area has a very vibrant music arts theme whether it’s music or orchestra or all kinds of things,” says Deitrick. “It’s just a good area to be. Despite all the economic things that have gone on in the last 15-20 years, Dayton has been able to maintain a vibrant arts scene.”

Deitrick himself is from the Dayton area, and his enthusiasm for the Dayton arts scene and, specifically, the presentation of John Williams music by the MVSO, is readily apparent.

“Music has it’s own intrinsic feeling if you’re not thinking in terms of movement, it has whatever that composer is trying to express, and it usually has an emotional content of some sort,” he says. “So, when you’re conducting or playing an instrument of some sort you’re trying to bring that back to life. When you see it on the page it’s just black and white. This has been written in the last 50 years of course with Williams’ music, but whether it’s 50 or 300 years old you’re taking what that composer has created and you’re bringing it back to life and it’s a recreation process and it’s something very exciting.”

The MVSO will bring the music of John Williams back to life at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 6 at Kettering Seventh Day Adventist Church, 3939 Stonebridge Rd. in Kettering. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors/students and are general admission, so please arrive early for the best seats. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Emma Jarman at


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