Mancini was born to Italian parents in Cleveland in 1924. Shortly after, his family moved to Pittsburgh, where his father worked in the steel mills. The young Mancini developed an early interest and skill in music, learning the piano at twelve and attending the esteemed Juilliard School of Music in New York after graduating high school. It wasn’t until he returned from World War II that he found his opening into a successful career as a musician. In 1946, Mancini was chosen as arranger and pianist for the Glenn Miller Orchestra, one of the most popular American musical groups from the 1930s and 40s. This association led Mancini to his true calling – composition for film and television. As a member of Universal Pictures’ music department, Mancini scored classic films such as The Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, and Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. Other favorites include “Moon River,” made famous in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the theme music to The Pink Panther, and the title track to Days of Wine and Roses.
Mancini worked with countless musicians throughout his career, including Andy Williams, Wayne Newton, Tony Bennett, and Frank Sinatra. He also conducted over 600 symphony performances, leading some of the world’s most respected symphony orchestras. He won 20 Grammy Awards out of 72 nominations placing him easily among the top ten most decorated American composers in history. Yet, despite his many accolades, Mancini strived to push the boundaries of film music and he devoted himself to ensuring opportunities for future composers to follow in his footsteps. He established scholarships at the UCLA and Juilliard schools of music. In 2005, Midland, Pennsylvania opened the doors to the Henry Mancini Arts Academy, a performing arts program designed for children of pre-school age and older. Mancini’s wife co-founded the Society of Singers, a non-profit organization offering educational, health, and welfare benefits to professional singers all over the world.
Through his unparalleled work ethic as a composer and conductor, Mancini thrilled and inspired audiences all over the world. Through his creative, musical mind and Hitchcock-esque cameos, he provoked laughter and delight. Through his philanthropic efforts, he delivered pillars of hope and faith for professional and aspiring musicians to lean upon. His quintessential passion will remain permanently embedded in cornerstones of American music, and continue to shine light on the lasting impressions that can be created through the empowering union of music and film.