POSTED: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 6:00am
UPDATED: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 6:04am
Baton Rouge, La — Oscar and three-time Emmy Award winning composer Bill Conti, who is also a graduate of the LSU School of Music, will serve as keynote speaker for the LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts’ spring 2012 commencement exercises, scheduled for Friday, May 18, at noon in the Bo Campbell Auditorium of the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student Athletes.
One of Hollywood’s most sought-after composers and conductors for both film and television, Conti’s compositions have sold in excess of 8 million albums, and he continues to be in great demand as a conductor of symphony orchestras throughout the country. On Nov. 10, 1989, his rich contributions to the entertainment industry were recognized when a star bearing his name was placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1995, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP, awarded Conti the Golden Soundtrack Award for lifetime achievement in film and television.
Conti’s work for the small screen has been equally as critically acclaimed, receiving a total of 10 Emmy nominations throughout his career. He won two Emmy Awards in 1990 for developing the creative concept and composing the score for the running of the New York City Marathon, which was telecast by ABC. Conti conducted the Juilliard Symphony Orchestra during the course of the marathon live from Lincoln Center – a first in television sports coverage. He won his third Emmy in 1992 for his musical direction during the telecast of the Academy Award Ceremonies, marking the first time an Emmy was awarded for a participant in the Oscar ceremonies. During the 1983-84 television season, Bill Conti set an all-time industry record for having composed the themes for five television series playing concurrently in prime time. However, he broke his own record in 1986-87 when that number increased to nine – “Dynasty,” “Falcon Crest,” “Cagney & Lacey,” “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” “O’Hara,” “The Colby’s,” “Our World,” “Business Week” and “Mariah.”
Conti’s relationship with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences spans two decades, as he has been the musical director for 12 of the internationally televised annual Academy Award ceremonies, most recently in 1997. For six consecutive years, 1990-1995, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Direction for his work on the Academy Award shows.
Born in Providence, R.I., on April 13, 1942, Conti began studying piano at age seven under the tutelage of his father, an accomplished pianist, sculptor and painter. At the age of 15, he organized a band and began to play for high school dances in Miami, Fla. He was a member of his high school band and symphony orchestra and won the “Silver Knight Award” from the Miami Herald for high achievement in the field of music.
Conti received a bassoon scholarship from LSU, where he majored in composition and played jazz piano at many of the local nightspots to help defray the costs of his education. While attending LSU, he held a variety of musical posts including first chair bassoon in the school symphony orchestra, the staff arranger for the university’s marching band and accompanist for the LSU Ballet Corps. It was in this capacity that he met his wife, Shelby, who was a member of the Ballet Corps and a soloist with the Modern Dance Group.
After Conti received his Bachelor of Music degree from LSU, he auditioned and was accepted at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, where he studied with such musical greats as Hugo Weisgall, Vincent Persichetti, Roger Sessions, Luciano Berio and Jorge Mester. In 1965, Conti won the Marion Feschl Prize for having composed the best song of the year. He received a Bachelor of Music degree from Juilliard, followed by a master’s degree.