January 30, 2014

Prolific Television and Film Composer John Cacavas Dies at 83

john cacavas

John Cacavas

New York, NY, January 30, 2014: ASCAP composer member John Cacavas – who scored hundreds of television episodes, television films and feature films – died on January 28th at his home in Beverly Hills, California. He was 83 years old and had been suffering from multiple health problems. Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, Matlock and Quincy are among the TV shows for which he wrote music. Cacavas, who served as a member of ASCAP’s Board of Directors from 1993 to 2001, was also a noted composer, arranger and conductor of orchestral music.

John Cacavas was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota on August 13th, 1930. Musically precocious, Cacavas 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 US 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.

A later collaboration with Osgood, the musical score for Senator Everett M. Dirksen’s 1967 spoken word recording, The Gallant Men, earned a Grammy Award. 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’ classic 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 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. ​For many years, Cacavas was a leading figure in the American school music field. As a composer and arranger, his published works for band, orchestra, choir and chamber music total over 2,000.

Cacavas authored two books for music professionals, Orchestration and Music Arranging and The Art of Writing Music. He also wrote an autobiography, It’s More than Do-Re-Mi and a novel titled A Song for Lynbidium.

John Cacavas is survived by his wife, Bonnie; two daughters: Jennifer Cacavas Krutilek and Lisa Stewart; and a son, John Cacavas; as well as three grandchildren.

The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Aberdeen Public School Foundation (1224 South 3rd Street, Aberdeen, SD, 57401) for the John Cacavas Memorial.