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John Cacavas, Prolific TV, Film Composer, Dies at 83

Composer John Cacavas, who scored hundreds of television episodes, telepics and feature films – died at his home in Beverly Hills on January 28. He was 83 and had been suffering from multiple health problems. Among the TV shows for which he wrote music were “Hawaii Five-O,” “Matlock” and “Quincy.”

Cacavas was also a noted composer, arranger and conductor of orchestral music and served as a member of ASCAP’s board of directors from 1993 to 2001.

Cacavas was born in Aberdeen, S.D., and began leading a touring band at 14. He graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Composition and Theory. He joined the Army after completing college and was chosen to be chief arranger for the U.S. Army Band. During that time, he co-wrote an oratorio with lyricist and future CBS news correspondent Charles Osgood called “The Conversion of Paul.” An NBC telecast of the oratorio was the first of many television successes for Cacavas.

Cacavas formed a friendship with actor Telly Savalas, a relationship that helped bring the composer scoring assignments for such films as “Poncho Villa” and “Horror Express.” Cacavas later worked as a composer on Savalas’ television show, “Kojak,” contributing a new theme for the show’s final season in 1977 and 1978. Cacavas became one of the most in-demand composers in TV scoring, writing music for “Hawaii Five-0,” “Matlock,” “Mrs. Columbo” and many more network shows. In addition, he scored numerous made-for-TV films, including “The Executioner’s Song” and “Still the Beaver.”
Theatrical film releases featuring Cacavas scores include “Airport 1975,” “Airport ’77” and “The King of Comedy.”

Cacavas, who in his younger years served as assistant to composer and conductor Morton Gould, was also active in the concert music field. He either guest-conducted or had his music performed by many of the world’s major orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Manhattan Pops, the symphonies of Vancouver, Detroit, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Miami. In later years, Cacavas was official conductor of the Beverly Hills Pops Orchestra.

Cacavas is survived by his wife, Bonnie; two daughters and a son; as well as three grandchildren.
Donations be made to the Aberdeen Public School Foundation (1224 South 3rd Street, Aberdeen, SD 57401) for the John Cacavas Memorial.

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