Trombonist / composer / arranger Sammy Nestico | KNKX public radio

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Sammy Nestico was the child of a railway worker father and housewife mother in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Triggered by the trombone at the age of 13, his big band career quickly ignited and burned brightly for most of his life.

At 15, Nestico was arranging music for the school orchestra, and at 17, he was arranging music for the house orchestra for a Pittsburgh radio station.

Nestico continued to work with the great orchestras of Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman and Gene Krupa – and the crowning achievement of his career: arranging for the Count Basie Orchestra.

Some prolific artists are brooding and introspective, but not the hot and cheerful Nestico. He says he woke up with music in his head.

And his greatest pleasure was seeing and hearing his compositions performed by others.

Nestico was the proudest of the more than 600 published titles that are still being played in schools across America and around the world.

Nestico was a backstage guy, making 10 original music albums that won him four Grammys.

He was also a composer and arranger for the Capitol Records label and created music for film and television.

He has arranged and directed albums for artists including Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Phil Collins.

Nestico was a member of the US Air Force Band in Washington, DC for 15 years. He directed the famous Airmen of Note. He later enlisted in the US Marine Band and served as chief arranger and director of the White House Orchestra.

One of his proudest moments was creating a play heard by then-President John Kennedy after the President visited his ancestor’s birthplace in Ireland. Nestico was inspired to record “The Boys of Wexford” – and the president even requested that a copy be played aboard Air Force One.

Sammy Nestico passed away in January, just weeks away from his 97th birthday this year.

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