Nero: Artistic Director and Conductor of The Philly
“If the perfect pops conductor could be conjured, … he might answer to this description,” wrote Philadelphia Inquirer music critic Peter Dobrin: “Huge talent with polymath abilities and catholic tastes. Musician who actually enjoys giving audiences what they want. Plays piano like a dream. … [H]e might look something like Peter Nero.”
Two-time Grammy Award-winning pianist Peter Nero leads his unrivaled Pops orchestra blending classical, swing, Broadway, blues, and jazz—all performed with virtuosity, authenticity, and an inviting sense of humor. Philadelphia’s Evening Bulletin has written, “Nero’s own enthusiasm, humor, and creativity were the other major highlight of the show.” The Washington Post has called him “the epitome of the Pops Conductor/Performer,” while Mary Kunz, music critic for the Buffalo News, wrote, “The best aspect of Nero’s art could well be his crazy creativity. He has the gift of seeing a song as no one has seen it before.” For his ability to pick just the right material, Mr. Nero most recently was dubbed “Dr. Feelgood.” In Keyboard magazine, the late Ray Charles, when asked about his favorite pianist, was quoted as saying, “Art Tatum could play anything he wanted to. He’s one of the few people who I truly believe could play anything he thought of … and Peter Nero plays his buns off!”
One of Peter’s greatest achievements is being the founding Music Director of the world renowned Peter Nero and the Philly Pops. On January 27, 2007, Peter joined Rod Stewart from the piano for a performance of “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” at the Academy of Music 150th Anniversary Concert. Peter’s recent guest performances include engagements with the Toledo Symphony, the National Arts Centre Symphony in Ottawa, the Charlotte Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the Baltimore Symphony, among others. His complete concert schedule can be found at www.peternero.com.
As a Steinway artist for close to 50 years, Peter returned to New York’s Carnegie Hall in the spring of 2003 to perform at the 150th Anniversary of Steinway Gala with many noted pianists, including Dr. Billy Taylor, Herbie Hancock, and Michel Legrand.
Born in Brooklyn, Peter Nero began his formal music training at the age of seven. By the time he was 14, he was accepted to New York City’s prestigious High School of Music and Art and won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music. Constance Keene, his teacher and mentor, once wrote in an issue of Keyboard Classics that “Vladimir Horowitz was Peter’s greatest fan!”
Peter recorded his first album in 1961 and won a Grammy Award that year for “Best New Artist.” Since then, he has received another Grammy, garnered 10 additional nominations, and released 67 albums. Peter’s early association with RCA Records produced 23 albums in eight years. His subsequent move to Columbia Records resulted in a million-selling single and album—The Summer of ‘42—now available on CD.
His recordings over the last 13 years include three CDs with full symphony orchestra: On My Own, Classic Connections, and My Way. He recorded Peter Nero and Friends, which contains collaborations with Mel Torme, Maureen McGovern, and Doc Severinsen, among others. Peter’s latest CDs are romantic albums titled Love Songs for a Rainy Day and More in Love. By popular demand, four of his earlier vinyl recordings have been re-issued on CD. A younger generation of music lovers can now hear Peter on Rod Stewart’s album As Time Goes By … The Great American Songbook, Volume II.
Peter’s first major national TV success came at age 17 when he was chosen to perform Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on Paul Whiteman’s TV special. He subsequently appeared on many top variety and talk shows including 11 guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and numerous appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Hailed as one of the premier interpreters of Gershwin, Peter starred in the Emmy Award-winning NBC Special “S’Wonderful, S’Marvelous, S’Gershwin.” Other TV credits include performances on PBS-TV’s “Piano Pizzazz” and with the National Symphony in Washington, D.C., on its July 4th special titled “A Capitol Fourth.” Peter served as music director and pianist for the PBS-TV special “The Songs of Johnny Mercer: Too Marvelous for Words” with co-stars Johnny Mathis, Melissa Manchester, and many members of The POPS.
Among Peter’s long list of honors are six honorary doctorates (the most recent from Drexel University in 2004) and the prestigious International Society of Performing Arts Presenters Award for “Excellence in the Arts.” He is also included on two historic walks of fame—one in Philadelphia, and one in Miami, Florida. In 1999 he received the Pennsylvania Distinguished Arts Award, presented by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. Previous honorees include Marian Anderson, James Michener, Andrew Wyeth, and Riccardo Muti.
Peter is an active supporter of many important causes, including the funding of school music programs, fundraising for the building of new arts centers across the country, as well as research for cancer, dystonia, and autism.
A longtime devotee and advocate of consumer electronics, Peter is never without the latest gadgets. Although proud of his reputation as a “technocrat” and “Gadget King,” he still makes music on the traditional Steinway concert grand piano.
When not touring the world, Peter makes his home in the Philadelphia area. He has two children by a previous marriage—Beverly, a successful actress residing with her husband in California, and Jedd, a commercial real estate entrepreneur residing with his wife near New York City. Both children have made him a grandfather.