Visiting Professor of Composition
James Newton Howard is one of the most versatile and in-demand composers working in film.
James’ success reflects the experiences of a rich musical past. Inspired by his grandmother, a classical violinist who played in the Pittsburgh Symphony in the ‘30s and ‘40s, he began his studies on the piano at four. After studying at Santa Barbara Musical Academy of the West and at USC School of Music as a piano major, he completed his formal education with orchestration study under legendary arranger Marty Paich.
Though his training was classical, he maintained an interest in rock and pop, and it was his early work in the pop arena that allowed him to hone his talents as a musician, arranger, songwriter and producer. He spent two years doing session work for performers like Carly Simon, Diana Ross, Ringo Starr, Leo Sayer, Harry Nilsson and Melissa Manchester. He also recorded two solo albums. In 1975, he joined pop superstar Elton John’s band on the road and in the studio. He would rejoin the band in 1980 for another tour and again in 1986 to conduct the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for John’s “Live in Australia” tour, which later became a platinum-selling album.
When he was offered his first film, Head Office in 1985, he never looked back. “From the first cue I wrote, I was absolutely in heaven,” he remembers. “After 18 years of classical piano, music school, rock ‘n’ roll, producing and songwriting, I’d really found what I could do best. And I literally haven’t stopped since.”
To date, James has received eight Oscar nominations, including five for Best Original Score for Michael Clayton, The Village, The Fugitive, The Prince of Tides, Defiance, My Best Friend's Wedding, and two for Best Original Song, including “Look What Love Has Done” from Junior and “For The First Time” from the film One Fine Day.
He has received five Grammy nominations, for music from The Dark Knight (with Hans Zimmer), Blood Diamond, Dinosaur, Signs, and One Fine Day. His theme for Dying Young also brought a Grammy nod to performer Kenny G. In addition, he won an Emmy for the theme to the Andre Braugher series Gideon's Crossing and two additional Emmy nominations for the themes to ER and the Ving Rhames series Men.
James has also been nominated four times for Golden Globe Awards: for Defiance, King Kong, Junior and One Fine Day. James, who has been honoured with ASCAP’s prestigious Henry Mancini Award for Lifetime Achievement, now has nearly 100 films to his credit.
Among them are all of M. Night Shyamalan’s films (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, the Village and Lady in the Water), five Lawrence Kasdan films (Grand Canyon, Wyatt Earp, French Kiss, Mumford and Dreamcatcher), four Julia Roberts comedies (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, My Best Friend's Wedding and America's Sweethearts) and three animated Disney films (Dinosaur, Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire).
Other credits include The Great Debaters (with Peter Golub), Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, The Lookout, Batman Begins, Collateral, Outbreak, Falling Down, Primal Fear, Glengarry Glen Ross, Waterworld, The Devil's Advocate, Space Jam, Dave, Flatliners and many others.
Biography courtesy of The Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency.