Oscar- and five-time Emmy-winner BILL CONTI is one of Hollywood’s most respected composers and conductors for both film and television. His compositions have sold in excess of eight million albums, and he is in great demand as a conductor of symphony orchestras throughout the United States.
On November 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 (ASCAP) awarded Conti the Golden Soundtrack Award for lifetime achievement in film and television.
For the silver screen, Bill Conti has composed the musical scores for many box office giants including Broadcast News, Baby Boom, F/X, The Karate Kid, Private Benjamin, and Spy Hard. He won an Oscar for Best Original Score for The Right Stuff in 1983 and received two Oscar nominations for Best Original Song – one for the Sheena Easton hit record “For Your Eyes Only” from the James Bond picture of the same title and one for “Gonna Fly Now,” the powerful anthem from the 1976 Academy Award-winning Best Picture, Rocky.
The soundtrack for the Sylvester Stallone blockbuster Rocky also garnered a host of other honors, including a Golden Globe nomination, an RIAA Certified Platinum Album, and a Grammy nomination for Best Original Score. “Gonna Fly Now” not only occupied the number one position on the Billboard magazine charts for the week of July 2, 1977, but also received an RIAA Certified Gold Record and two Grammy nominations for Best Instrumental Composition and performance.
Conti’s work for the small screen has been equally as critically acclaimed, receiving a total of ten Emmy nominations throughout his career. Conti’s relationship with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (the organization that awards the Oscars) spans two decades; he has been the musical director for 19 of the internationally televised annual Academy Award ceremonies, most recently in 2003.
In addition to composing, Conti spends considerable time traveling around the world as a guest conductor for many prestigious orchestras, including the Boston Pops, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Music Festival, the National Symphony at Wolf Trap, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, the Florida Pops Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony, the Calgary Philharmonic, the RAI Orchestra of Rome, and the Graunke Orchestra of Munich. He has also been the principal pops conductor for the Nashville Symphony.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island 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, Florida. Conti received a bassoon scholarship from Louisiana State University, where he majored in composition and played jazz piano at local nightspots to help defray the costs of his education. While attending LSU, 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. He received a Bachelor of Music degree from Juilliard, followed by a Master’s.
In 1969, Conti began teaching music theory and harmony to a son of best-selling author Morris West, and a close friendship with the West family ensued. With their encouragement, Conti began orchestrating for prominent Italian film composers and songwriters, conducting scoring sessions, recording sessions, and appearing at European music festivals. He wrote the music for Morris West’s play, The Heretic, and composed his first musical score for a feature film called Candidate for Killing. The score for the 1971 Oscar-winning Best Foreign Language Film, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, featured Bill Conti at the piano.
Attending the Venice Song Festival in 1971, Conti was asked to be musical supervisor of an American film, Blume in Love, by director Paul Mazursky, who encouraged him to return to the United States. With all of his personal belongings and furniture put in storage in Italy, Conti arrived in California in January of 1974 and began to seek work as a film composer in Hollywood.
Almost one year to the day after Conti’s arrival in Los Angeles, Paul Mazursky asked him to score Harry and Tonto, a film about a man and his cat. Art Carney’s Oscar win for Best Actor brought national attention to the film and to Conti’s score. Soon after, he was asked to compose the score for the film that would launch his career to new heights, Rocky.
The Contis now live in a home built in 1924 in the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles. Bill is an expert navigator and has 20 years sailing on his 41' ketch. He enjoys being at the helm of a new 50' powerboat with his family – especially with his five grandchildren.