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August 31, 2015
Film, TV composer John Cacavas honored
Late Kojak, Airport 1975 composer's scores donated to USC Cinematic Arts Library by Jon Burlingame
LOS ANGELES—Film and television composer John Cacavas was celebrated at a reception Sunday afternoon at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, which has acquired the Kojak composer's scores for its library. Nearly 150 attended.
Cinematic Arts School Dean Elizabeth M. Daley called him "one of television history's most accomplished composers," citing such familiar TV credits as Kojak, Matlock, Columbo, Hawaii Five-0, The Executioner's Song and Confessional. He also scored films including Horror Express, Airport 1975 and Airport '77. Cacavas died in January 2014.
"He was a Renaissance man who celebrated the arts in all of our lives," she added, noting that in addition to his work as a composer and conductor, Cacavas was a songwriter and novelist.
Singer and archivist Michael Feinstein, who will work with the Cacavas family and USC in promoting Cacavas' many symphonic arrangements for public performance, said he "tackled every aspect of the music business," including music publishing and administration. He spoke of the composer's "humor and kindness" to all he encountered.
Feinstein also talked about Cacavas' connection to Ira Gershwin, who entrusted Cacavas with interpreting and helping to complete many of George Gershwin's unfinished song sketches.
Dan Carlin, director of the USC Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program, talked about working closely with Cacavas during their time together on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' music-branch executive committee. "He was a person of principle, for whom doing the right thing came naturally," Carlin said.
Carlin noted that the Cacavas house in Beverly Hills was, for many years, the home for the annual night-before-the-Oscars reception for music nominees, sponsored by the Society of Composers & Lyricists.
Bonnie Becker Cacavas, the composer's wife of 57 years and his frequent songwriting partner, noted that in 1989 they penned a centennial song for Cacavas' home state of South Dakota (included on a memorial CD given to attendees).
"John loved people and parties," she remarked, adding that he also loved writing and was passionate about cooking. She said it had been "an emotional and rewarding time" preparing the scores for donation to USC. She welcomed their 10-year-old grandson Eric to the podium, who spoke warmly about his grandfather.
Cacavas' scores will be available for study by students in the film and scoring programs at USC. Among others in attendance were SCL president Ashley Irwin, former SCL president Dan Foliart, composers Bruce Broughton and Charles Bernstein, veteran music editor Kenneth Hall, Disney songwriter Richard Sherman, and Olivia Tiomkin-Douglas, whose late husband Dimitri Tiomkin's papers are also housed at USC.
©2015 Jon Burlingame
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