Making timeless music was a lifelong calling during the eight-decade career of renowned composer and arranger Sammy Nestico. His music highlighted albums by artists such as the Count Basie Orchestra, Michael Bublé, Barbra Streisand, Phil Collins, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich and Bing Crosby. The nine-time Grammy nominee passed away in his sleep in his hometown of Pittsburgh on Sunday morning at the age of 96.
An abiding love of music began early for Samuel Louis Nistico, who was born in Pittsburgh on 6 February 1924 and later changed his name to Nestico. He was only 13 when he played trombone in his high school orchestra. At 17, he joined the ABC radio orchestra in Pittsburgh and, after five years in the US Army during World War II, earned a degree in music from Duquesne University.
An accomplished trombonist, Nestico played in the big bands led by Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, Charlie Barnet and Tommy Dorsey, whose group also served as a launching pad for the young Sinatra.
After reenlisting in the military, Nestico distinguished himself in the 1950s as an arranger for the prestigious U.S. Air Force’s esteemed Airmen of Note Band. The Air Force still presents an annual award in his honour, the Sammy Nestico Arranging Award.
After later enlisting in the US Marines, he became arranger and musical director of the US Marine Band at the White House in May 1963, serving Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Nestico was silent when President Johnson – whose tastes didn’t go much beyond “Hello, Dolly!” – responded to one of Nestico’s compositions by saying, “You call that music?”
Nestico’s music was rich in melodic invention and harmonic ingenuity. A master of counterpoint and syncopation, he could make the most complicated music sound inviting and infuse straightforward songs with subtle hues and timbres. (Source: San Diego Union-Tribune)