October is National Italian-American Heritage Month, and with that in mind, we decided that our Composer of the Month should celebrate the life of an Italian-American composer with an incredible legacy. Our selection for this month is none other than the man himself, Henry Mancini.
You’ve probably heard his name before, and even if you haven’t, we can guarantee that you’ve heard his music before. Mancini made a giant impact on the music of television and film as well as in the recording studios and concert halls. You could even go as far as to say he single-handedly shaped film music. Because of Henry Mancini, themes for film music moved from traditional symphonic arrangements and began to incorporate elements of popular music and jazz.
Where you’ve heard Mancini’s music
Even if you didn’t realize it until now, it’s likely you’ve been listening to Mancini’s compositions throughout your life! You can tell a Mancini piece from its clean melodies along with strings and horns that take on more of a pop or jazz style (as opposed to a classical or symphonic sound). Take a listen:
Baby Elephant Walk
Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet
He was quite the award winner!
Won 1 Golden Globe, 2 Emmys, 4 Oscars
He was nominated for over 70 Grammy awards and won 20, not including a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
Mancini made more than 50 records and published over 500 of his own original compositions
The U.S. Postal Service commemorated Mancini with a stamp on April 13, 2004.
A closer look
“Henry” Enrico Nicola Mancini was born on April 16, 1924 to Quinto and Anna Mancini, Italian immigrants who made their home in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood. When he was a young boy, he and his family moved to Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, where his father worked in steel by day and played flute in the Sons of Italy Band by night. Quinto encouraged young Henry to learn to play music and exposed him to composers like Puccini and Rossini. Henry also studied flute and piano as a child. It was during his teenage years that Henry realized he had a knack for musical arrangement.
After dropping out of Juilliard to serve in WWII, Henry began working as a pianist and arranger for the Glenn Miller Orchestra, where he met his future wife, Ginny O’Connor. Henry and Ginny wed and had three children together. A short stint at Universal Studios initiated his arranging music for film and television. After working on countless films, Henry caught the attention of Hollywood producer Blake Edwards. Henry scored Peter Gunn and continued to collaborate with Edwards for most of his career, and Henry continued to view his work on Peter Gunn as his big break.
Over the course of his life, interviews revealed a Henry Mancini that was humble and sincere. While we remember Mancini as a composer, we remember that he was also an accomplished musician, even though he himself preferred arranging and composing to performance. He always attributed his musical abilities to his Italian background and credited deep analysis of compositions by ‘the greats’ (such as Chopin and Schumann) to his understanding of musical theory. Mancini longed to “paint pictures with music.”
Henry Mancini passed away on June 14, 1994, but his legacy lives on, and he even provided us with words that are particularly apt in this technologically-based world we now live in 25 years later:
“With the new technology that keeps entering the media, film composers are constantly being placed in new learning situations. Acknowledging this and realizing that one must keep up, I maintain, nonetheless, that the real creative power is in the mind and heart of the composer.”
If you or your child are interested in taking music lessons at CCM’s Santa Clara location or Redwood City location, please contact us to sign up for a free 15-minute introductory lesson. We offer piano lessons, guitar lessons, violin lessons, and more. Start your musical journey today, and be on your way to becoming the next Henry Mancini!