Today, July 23, 2021, marks the official start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. I will be paying special attention to the music this year because I discovered this week that America’s beloved film composer, John Williams, has a special connection to the Olympics, and a special message of hope that resonates today.
Before I share Williams’ message, l need to provide some background. George Gershwin has been the featured composer this month in my piano studio, and I have been talking with my students about his contributions to Broadway musicals and classical music. Naturally, any conversation about Gershwin would be deficient if we did not listen to Rhapsody in Blue! And then I read an article about classical music featured at the Olympic games which mentioned a special tribute to Gershwin at the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles. Even though the only video clips I can find are very low quality and have significant color distortion, the tribute is still inspiring and uplifting to watch! I know the amount of effort that goes into hosting a recital for the music teachers association and putting on a performance for a community choir, so I have great respect for the people that organized and coordinated the musicians, dancers, and eighty-four pianists (not to mention getting the pianos to the stadium and onto the lifts)!
After I watched the video of the Gershwin tribute, I discovered a video of John Williams, also from the 1984 Olympics. And I was delighted to discover that the trumpet fanfare that plays when the NBC Olympics symbol appears on the TV is part of a larger theme that was commissioned by the Olympic Committee and composed by Williams for the 1984 games.
In an interview with the New York Times, Williams said, “A wonderful thing about the Olympics is that young athletes strain their guts to find and produce their best efforts. The human spirit stretching to prove itself is also typical of what musicians attempt to achieve in a symphonic effort. It is difficult to describe how I feel about these athletes and their performances without sounding pretentious, but their struggle ennobles all of us. I hope I express that in this piece.”
The Olympic games has always been a time of coming together, a rare moment of unity when athletes from all over the world unite and compete while the entire world watches. And even though this year the games look different than ever before due to covid precautions, the fact that the games are taking place at all is a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. To the athletes who had to be very creative to continue training when facilities shut down last year, and to the organizers working on the ground in Tokyo to abide by restrictions and still keep the events going- well done! The fact that I can watch the opening ceremony tonight on NBC is a testimony to your grit, your tenacity, and your creative spirit.
And, as Williams expressed in his music, the human spirit has no bounds.
Emily Morgan is a Suzuki piano teacher who maintains an active studio of online and in person students. If you are interested in lessons, please fill out the contact form below.
I am a piano teacher who loves teaching music and discussing personality styles. I also enjoy playing music with others, whether that is chamber music, piano duets, or singing in a choir. My favorite composers are Bach and Haydn.