‘Nightly’ theme composer sits down with Lester Holt

NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt sat down with legendary film and TV composer John Williams after his history-making Oscar nomination for “The Fabelmans” score — and briefly discussed his work for NBC News.

Williams, 91, made history in early 2023, becoming the oldest person to be nominated for an Oscar. 

The latest nomination is the latest in a lengthy list of nods his composing work has been recognized for; he’s been nominated for 53 Academy Awards, winning five over the years. He’s also been nominated for six Emmys (winning three), 27 Golden Globes (winning 4) and 73 Grammys (winning 25).

Williams’ portfolio leans more heavily toward film work, but he’s also done work for TV, including the theme for “Great Performances,” the Olympics and, of course, NBC News.

Officially known as “The Mission,” the piece used on “Nightly” is actually one of four movements in a larger orchestral suite of the same name, portions of which are used on other NBC programs, including “The Pulse of Events” for both “Meet the Press” and special reports.

“Nightly” currently uses an updated version of “The Mission” recorded in 2004, though it uses the signature and other key elements from Williams’ original 1985 work. There are multiple other versions and variations that use the signature fanfare, including ones not composed directly by Williams.

“The (original) piece is about four minutes long … and they said if we have a slow news day, we’ll play the whole piece,” Williams joked in his interview with Holt.

NBC viewers are also likely to recognize Williams’ work for the Olympics. He’s written three separate pieces for the games that have been used in various capacities since 1984, including on other networks. 


In addition to the version that aired on “Nightly” March 1, 2023, NBC also posted a two-part extended version of the interview.