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James Newton Howard
Excerpted from Dan Foliart’s remarks at the SCL Ambassador induction ceremony December 14, 2011:
As you are keenly aware, in our profession there are rarely things that we can agree on, all the way from whether trumpets sound richer in bucket mutes or if they should be playing flugelhorns instead or whether we should be serving chicken or turkey in this room tonight. However, our first honoree comes in the form of a rare unanimity among our board of directors. There was never any discussion beyond the fact that if James Newton Howard could be with us tonight, he would be one of our 2011 SCL Ambassadors.
It’s no wonder that the choice was so immediate and resolved. Rarely has anyone in our profession accomplished so much with so much craftsmanship and creativity in so little time. He has scored over one hundred films in a career that continues to flourish and grow day by day.
James started piano at four and beyond the academic preparation that he received at the Music Academy of the West and USC, he had the rare opportunity to study privately with legendary arranger Marty Paich, who arranged The Bergman’s The Way Were, by the way.
Although he had strong roots in conservatory music, it was in the pop arena that James’ talents first came to the attention of our industry. Artists such as Barbra Streisand; Earth, Wind and Fire; Toto and Randy Newman were just a few that benefited from his artistic touch. In fact his tenure with Elton John’s band on the road and in the studio helped establish James as one of the most in demand musicians and arrangers in the industry.
But James had some other aspirations, and those are what led him to the stage tonight. Beginning in 1985 he began to amass a string of motion picture scores that are unequalled in our industry today. To name them all would be impossible with the time at hand, so a small sampling include all of M. Night Shyamalan’s films, which include The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Lady in the Water, The Happening and The Last Airbender, six films for director Lawrence Kasdan: Darling Companion, Grand Canyon, Wyatt Earp, French Kiss, Mumford and Dreamcatcher, six Julia Roberts comedies, which include Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, America’s Sweethearts, Duplicity and Charlie Wilson’s War and animated films for Walt Disney Studios which include Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
James has received eight Oscar nominations, including six for Best Original Score for his work on Defiance, Michael Clayton, The Village,
James, along with Hans Zimmer, won the 2009 Grammy Award for the score for The Dark Knight. He has also received Grammy Award nominations for music from Blood Diamond, Dinosaur, Signs and the song from One Fine Day. In addition, he won an Emmy Award for the theme to Gideon’s Crossing, and received two additional Emmy nominations for the themes to the series ER and the series Men. He has also been nominated four times for Golden Globe Awards for Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong; for the songs from Junior and One Fine Day; and most recently, for his score for Defiance.
As of late, I’ve been traveling a lot and I’ll be watching a movie on the plane, sometimes not knowing who the composer is as the credits roll so many times at the end of the film. And this has happened more than, once the movie will be going along and after a few cues go by, I’ll go this score is really terrific, either because of the intensity it brings to a scene or the drama, and particularly for me, the great melodic content. At the end of the picture on numerous occasions, I’ll see that this great music was written by James. A good example was the Tourist and the first beauty shot we see of Venice. The music just blew me away with its magnificence; and you do this time and time again.
He has been feted around the world and among his honors is the Gold Spirit Award from the Ubeda, Spain Film Festival and ASCAP’s prestigious Henry Mancini Award.