Performing rights organization BMI honored James Newton Howard at their annual Film/TV Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Wednesday night, feting the veteran film composer as well as handing out awards to the composers of the year’s top-grossing films and TV series. It was an appropriate venue, as a clip reel of Newton’s greatest hits lingered on his career breakthrough score for “Pretty Woman,” which was set in the very same hotel.
Taking the stage at the end of the ceremony to accept the BMI icon award, Howard addressed his usual avoidance of such events, noting, “Like most people, I hate public speaking. I tend to avoid interviews, I don’t have a publicist and fear of failure is still very much alive in my personal life.”
That aside, the composer had inspiring words for his assembled peers, which ranged from veterans like Disney icon Richard Sherman, Mark Mothersbaugh and Alan Silvestri to the likes of Brian Tyler, Atticus Ross, Ludwig Goransson and Tom “Junkie XL” Holkenborg. Howard recalled his early days in the 1970s, when “I was a young anarchist chiefly concerned with making music of no discernible melody,” and read aloud from a letter of encouragement that Elmer Bernstein sent to him early in his career.
“Our job is to tell stories, and I hold this job as a precious thing,” he said. “Never regard your work as anything less than art, and remember that the old guys like me are here to cheer you on.”
Earlier in the evening, composer David Newman received BMI’s classic contribution award for his long work as a conductor performing film music in concert halls, and his work with the American Youth Symphony. After video testimonials from the likes of Silvestri and Variety contributor Jon Burlingame, Newman reminded the audience that, “This stuff (film scores) has an afterlife. I’ve worked with a lot of great orchestras who were not used to doing film music, and now they perform film music all the time. We’re ambassadors for Hollywood, and for film scoring.”