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Dr. Grant Gilman
Music Director & Conductor

 

Grant Gilman is an orchestral conductor known for his expertise in American orchestral music from the 19th-21st centuries. Grant is in his 2nd season as Music Director of the Alpharetta Symphony Orchestra. Grant is also Music Director of the East Cobb Chamber Orchestra, and Conductor at the Atlanta Music Project. Previously, he held the positions of Associate Music Director of the Round Rock Symphony, Music Director with the Harbor Opera Company, Resident Conductor with the Astoria Symphony, Assistant Conductor with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, and Guest Conductor with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. With a lifelong commitment to developing young talent, he has been Director of Orchestral Studies at the College of William and Mary and Christopher Newport University, Music Director with the University of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra Director for the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio Summer String Camp.

 

Recently, Grant launched a podcast titled American Muse centered around the orchestral music of composers from the 19th and 20th centuries. The podcast is complimented by his blog American Orchestral Music, and his forthcoming book Secrets of American Orchestral Music due to be released in 2023. Grant has conducted orchestral and opera performances in Cincinnati; Newport News & Norfolk, VA; Round Rock & San Antonio, TX; New York; Baltimore; Toms River & Newark, NJ; and Greensboro, NC. Most notably, he led a Nutcracker performance with the Moscow Ballet in Baltimore’s famed Lyric Opera House.

 

Grant earned Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees at the Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore. His undergraduate studies in violin performance were with Pamela Frank, Martin Beaver, and Misha Rosenker, and his graduate studies in orchestral conducting were with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar. He also earned his Doctorate of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), while studying with Mark Gibson.

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Earl Hough
Concertmaster

 

Earl Hough has been concertmaster with the Alpharetta Symphony Orchestra since 2020. Before joining theAlpharetta Symphony, Earl had been a member of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, Greenwich Symphony Orchestra, Erie Philharmonic, and the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestras.

 

As a soloist, Earl first appeared with the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra at the age of 10. Over the years, he has performed as soloist on numerous occasions with several orchestras including the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra, the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra, the Richardson Symphony Orchestra and three separate programs with the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra.

 

As an avid chamber musician, Earl performed at summer music festivals including the Aspen Music Festival, the Blossom Festival School, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and Music Mountain. He was also one of the founding members of the Allendale String Quartet.

 

While still in high school, Earl placed or took first prize in several local and national concerto competitions including the Richardson Young Artist’s Competition, the Kingsville Young Performers Competition, the Oklahoma City Young Artist Awards, the Seventeen Magazine Music Competition, and the Young Texas Artist’s Competition.

 

Earl began his violin studies at the age of 6 as part of a local Suzuki program and quickly graduated to studying privately lessons. At age 12 he began studying with the teacher who would be his primary mentor, Robert Davidovici, who was then Artist-in-Residence at North Texas State University. Earl studied at the Juilliard School with Dorothy Delay and earned his B.Mus. degree at the Manhattan School of Music where he studied with Ani Kavafian. He earned his M.Mus degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied with Bernard Goldschmidt, Martin Chalifour, and Carolyn Warner. He has also participated in masterclasses with such notable violinists as Ivan Galamian, Josef Gingold, and Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg. Currently Earl coaches with Kenn Wagner.

 

In addition to music, Earl has a passion for the technology industry. He holds numerous certifications from Cisco Systems and Microsoft including three distinct Cisco Certified Internetwork Engineer (CCIE) certifications, and is employed as a Sr. Network Engineer specializing in voice and video technologies.

Program Notes

by Missy Mahon

John Williams, arguably the most famous film composer to date, celebrated his 90th birthday this February. Orchestras around the world, big and small, are celebrating by performing his unforgettable music. He has a career that spans 7 decades, with over 75 film scores and an impressive collection of awards. He has earned a whopping 52 Oscar nominations (the most for any living person, only Walt Disney holds a higher Oscar nomination count at 59), with 5 wins. Williams also holds 6 Emmy Award nominations, with 3 wins; 25 Golden Globe Awards nominations, with 4 wins; and 72 Grammy Awards nominations, with 25 wins!

 

Drawing from techniques used by previous classical and film composers, Williams is able to give his melodies stirring sentiment and emotion that beautifully pair with the on-screen experience. By looking to the past, he has created a distinctive style and musical identity that in turn has influenced future composers. His instantly recognizable musical persona is evident in every one of his compositions, including his non-cinematic orchestral pieces. These include several concertos, a symphony, and various orchestral pieces such as the 1984 Olympic fanfare. 

 

In the past, Williams has been criticized by classical establishments for this simplistic sentiment, manipulating emotions with the familiar in his film scores. That criticism has softened over time; after all, most people watch a film to feel something. Despite this criticism, concerts featuring his music continually sell out and include enthusiastic ovations. And directors know their good fortune when they manage to hire Williams to score their film. As director J.J. Abrams said, “Remove his score from any scene and it becomes nearly unrecognizable, something is instantaneously and fundamentally gone, perhaps the soul of the piece.” His friend Steven Spielberg, whom he has collaborated with for five decades on multiple box office hits, said, “Without John Williams, there is no force, dinosaurs do not walk the Earth, we do not wonder, we do not weep, we do not believe.” And, if there is any doubt of John Williams’s multi-faceted success, Anthony Tommasini, music critic for the New York Times, writes, “Among those whose medium has been the orchestra, he is surely the best known, most popular and richest composer in history”.

 

John Williams was already firmly established in Hollywood when George Lucas hired him in 1977 to write a score for his “space opera”: Star Wars. Akin to a traditional opera, George Lucas wanted almost non-stop orchestral music in order to flood his film with sound and fill the coldness of space with human emotions. Williams turned to classical composers Gustav Holst, Richard Strauss, and Antonin Dvorák, as well as Golden Age Hollywood composers Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold for inspiration. From the opening orchestral blast and brass fanfare, the music has an epic, larger than life feel that reflects the heroic space saga. Most notably, the score is full of leitmotifs for the plethora of alien characters, grounding them with an earthly connection of familiarity each time their theme is played. In a documentary interview, Williams said of his score, “We heard a romantic melody for Princess Leia, we heard bellicose music for the battle scenes, and some very heavy declamatory thing for Darth Vader”, all of which draw on previous symphonic writing, but with Williams’s own special flair. Each character’s leitmotif/theme tells us everything that we need to know about their persona. Leia’s theme is romantic, soft, yet strong and sure of itself. Yoda’s theme is gentle, grand, and a little playful. Darth Vader’s is full of menace, jarring sounds, and power. Some years later at an awards presentation honoring the composer, George Lucas said, “Star Wars was meant to be a simple hero’s journey, a fantasy for young people, and then John wrote the music, and he raised it to a level of art, popular art that would stand the test of time...[John] ensured that Star Wars would endure forever”.

 

Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film, Jaws was the vessel for Williams’s second Oscar win. The infamous two-note theme, in all its simplicity, mimics the alarm of a pounding heartbeat. This simple theme has become synonymous with sharks and can easily strike terror and panic in even the most
experienced swimmer. When the two met to discuss the potential film score, Spielberg said, “I expected to hear something kind of weird and melodic, something tonal, but eerie; something of another world, almost like outer space under the water...And what he played me instead, with two fingers on the lower keys, was ‘dun dun, dun dun, dun dun.’ And at first, I began to laugh. He had a great sense of humor, and I thought he was putting me on.” For a quick moment, the motivic genius eluded the director. Spielberg later admitted that “John found the signature for the entire movie” crediting half of the movie’s success to the musical score. Williams explained that although the theme was simple, “You could alter the speed of this ostinato, any kind of alteration, very slow and very fast, very soft and very loud. There were opportunities to advertise the shark with music. There are also opportunities when we don’t have the music and, the audience has a sense of the absence. They sense the absence because they don’t hear the ‘dun dun’ because you’ve conditioned them to do that.” And, as Williams points out, that led to some of the biggest scares in the film. The absence of the musical cue leaves viewers shocked when the shark pops up out of the
water.

 

Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List won Williams another academy award for Best Original Film Score in 1993. When Honored with the 44th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, John Williams told an anecdote about his musical collaboration with Spielberg: 

“Steven and I worked together for 43 years, something amazing, and it’s like a perfect marriage. We really have never had an argument of any kind and it’s a testament to this man’s humanity, his loyalty, his patience, and his very good taste. I have a favorite Steven Spielberg story that I want to share with you and that has to do with Schindler’s List, which you all remember. Steven came back with this film to show me the first cut as he always does, and we went to his projection room and the purpose of this was to see the film and discuss the music for the film. You’ll remember the film, it’s the story of Oskar Schindler, a German civilian who protected and employed potential victims of the Holocaust, a powerful masterpiece of a film. [It] ends in the state of Israel, survivors and their children go to the gravesite of Oskar Schindler to put stones on the gravesite to honor [his] memory. The lights came up and the film was over, and it was time for Steven and me to start our meeting to begin to talk about the role of the music, and I was so overwhelmed by the film, I really could not speak. I went out and walked around the building for a few minutes to gather myself and came back to start the meeting with Steven and I said ‘Steven, this is truly a great film, and you need a better composer than I for this film,’ and he said very sweetly, ‘I know, but they’re all dead.’”

 

Unsurprisingly, Williams found a way to do the film justice with his scoring regardless. For Schindler’s List, he used solo violin, performed by the legendary Itzhak Perlman, to create a theme full of agonizing sadness, yet with a sense of hope for a brighter future. The robust passion of the violin line gives the melody a sense of strength and spirit in the face of hardship. In true John Williams style, he passes the melody throughout the orchestra, changing the audible and emotional timber. He uses echoes of the melody throughout other pieces, as is heard near the end of “Remembrances”. The main theme embodies the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people as they suffer through history’s worst oppression and inhumanity.

“Por Una Cabeza”, although not actually part of the film score for Schindler’s List, is heard in the opening nightclub scene of the movie and hints at the protagonist’s addiction to women throughout. Williams arranged the famous and beloved tango, written in 1935 by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera, for orchestra and violin and had Itzhak Perlman perform the solo violin part.“Por Una Cabeza” translates to “by a head” and refers to a racehorse winning by only the length of a head. Le Pera’s lyrics tell of a compulsive gambler who has lost everything. The singer laments as he compares “losing a woman” to “losing at the racetrack”. Tragically, both Gardel and Le Pera lost their lives in an airplane crash shortly after writing this song. One of the most famous and recognizable tangos, it has been used in dozens of films throughout Hollywood history, most notably in Scent of a Woman, where Al Pacino’s blind character dances the tango with a beautiful woman.

 

For Spielberg’s monster movie about dinosaurs, Williams chose to focus on the awe-inspiring thrills of the movie instead of the terror-inducing chills. In contrast to the eerie and unnerving theme given to “Bruno” the shark in Jaws, Williams instead wrote a sweepingly majestic melody for Spielberg’s predatory dinosaurs. Premiering in 1993, Jurassic Park explored both the beauty and the danger that would occur if dinosaurs could ever truly be resurrected. The premise is that Dr. Hammond, the park’s founder, needs further approval before he can open the park to the public. He invites a handful of experts to the island to definitively answer the question of whether dinosaurs would be the rulers of men or vice versa. Williams’s theme simultaneously embodies the majesty of the ancient creatures with the grandeur of Dr. Hammond’s realized dream. With broad strings and grand brass, the melody is full of regal pomp, but his simple melody repeatedly returns to the same note creating a trance-like state as characters and audience members stare in awe at the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the wonder-filled dream morphs into a nightmare as the dinosaurs prove victorious, laying claim to the island. As the helicopter carrying the survivors flies off into the sunrise at the end of the film, Williams reprises the theme but with a pared down orchestration to symbolize the broken dream. This lulling theme is like the remnant of a beautiful dream that is hard to grasp again upon waking.

 

While recalling Raiders of the Lost Ark which premiered in 1981, George Lucas recounted, “A long, long time ago, Steve [Spielberg] and I sat on the beach to talk about the story for Indy and instantly, we both said at the same time, ‘John has to write the music.’ He said, ‘Great, that’s the most important part. Let’s go have lunch, and we can write the story later.’” The enduring theme for Raiders of the Lost Ark is so catchy and exciting that it is hard to fathom a more thrilling piece of music to perfectly represent the beloved Nazi-fighting archaeologist. It captures Indy’s heroism and confidence, as well as the fun, lighter side of his character. At the 44th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of John Williams, Harrison Ford walked out to the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. He told Williams and the audience, “That damn music follows me everywhere. They play it every time I walk on stage. Every time I walk off a stage... it was playing in the operating room when I went in for my colonoscopy...John, I’m not complaining. To play a character graced by John’s music is of course a real gift. Music is the spice, it’s the salt and pepper in every film recipe that brings the whole thing together, the adjustment to taste at the critical moment. The collaboration between filmmaker and composer, how a score is used, how music is critical to the success of the film...John, you’re a genius.”

 

“Hedwig’s Theme”, first appearing in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, released in 1997, is often thought of as the main theme for the entire Harry Potter series and could easily be mistaken for Harry’s theme/leitmotif. However, the dreamy theme seems to be more representative of the
wizarding world and magic in general. The opening celeste seems to play a lullaby as the audience drifts into a fantastical dreamy world on the wings of a snowy owl, represented by sweeping runs in the woodwinds, strings, and harp. But, just as in any magical land, there is plenty of strangeness, mystery, and wonder. Williams makes use of some mysterious or “strange” sounding instruments like the English horn, contra bassoon, and alto flute. He further creates a mysterious atmosphere by basing the harmony on a string of minor chords and slinking the melody along a series of strange half steps; neither the harmony nor melody seem to resolve how one would expect. Then, the winds interrupt the floating waltz to catapult us into a hectic theme that suggests a ride on a whizzing “Nimbus 2000” broom. Full of swirling scales and runs, this new theme quickly whisks us into a flurry of acrobatics that vividly represent the thrill of flight through the cold night sky of a magical new world.

 

Like “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter, the “Flying Theme” from 1982’s E.T. the Extra Terrestrial is filled with Williams’s trademark sweeping runs; however, in E.T. these tend to be predominantly major and happy, full of the child-like wonder and awe of riding a flying bicycle in front of the moon. From the very opening, Williams rushes us onto the bicycles with driving speed as Elliot and his friends race to escape the government men who want to capture the little alien. Cornered, E.T. lifts the bicycle group, into the air, in order to escape. As he does so, Williams lifts the audience with a lusciously uplifting theme that rises higher and higher, the violins soaring with the bicycles. Statements in the horns are full of confidence and declaration and give the melody power as Elliot and E.T. fly through the evening sky. After the flight has ended, a solo piccolo (that is representative of E.T.’s vulnerability and loneliness throughout the movie, but now has a little love and hope thanks to his friendship with Elliot) speaks and then echoes, as if E.T. is making a celestial telephone call to his alien family.

 

At the initial recording session for 1978’s Superman, Williams’s theme excited director Richard Donner so much that he exclaimed, “Genius! Fantastic!” while still recording, thus ruining the first take. As music theorist Mark Richards states, “John Williams’s Superman theme is one of the most iconic in film history as it so effectively captures the film character’s features in musical terms: his unstoppable power, triumphant heroism, stabilizing presence, and capacity for romance.” The opening fanfare is built on Superman-esque perfect fourths and fifths that rise and progress as 
“Williams ramps up the intensity by rising to a loud dynamic and adding trombones and a cymbal crash to boot. This is also the moment where the music seems to utter the word “Su-per-man!”” says Richards. The following march, with its driving triplets, is full of action as Superman performs his Herculean feats. Lastly, Williams shows Superman’s softer, romantic side with a love theme that seems to gracefully float along as he takes his beloved Lois Lane on a starry flight.

 

Thank You John Williams for so many unforgettable pieces! Happy 90th Birthday!

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About the Music

Get the inside scoop on the music on this concert, directly from the performers - Stay tuned!

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