In Memoriam: Sammy Nestico

On Sunday, January 17, 2021, we lost one of our beloved alumni. Sammy Nestico, a 1950 graduate of the Duquesne University School of Music (as it was known then), passed away at 96.

Sammy was a very well-known and dedicated composer, arranger, trombonist, and educator. He graduated in June of 1950 with a Bachelor of Science in Public School Music, and later, in 1983, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Duquesne. Then again, in 1994, Duquesne honored him by inducting him into the Century Club, an elite group of alumni recognized for their exceptional achievements in their professional fields, contributions to humanity, and service. 

During his 80+-year musical career, replete with GRAMMY Award nominations and wins, Sammy had the honor of working with many notable musicians and ensembles, including the Count Basie Orchestra, Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, Michael Bublé, Barbra Streisand, Phil Collins, Bing Crosby, and the U.S. Air Force's Airmen of Note, to name a few. He also was very well known in the film and TV industry, having been instrumental in music heard in "Hawaii Five-O," "Charlie's Angels," "The Color Purple," "The Andy Griffith Show," "Mission: Impossible," and "M*A*S*H," among many others.

Current Program Director of Jazz Studies, Mike Tomaro, offered his reflections, saying, "Sammy was, and will remain, one of the most important arrangers in the history of this music. I, like most every other jazz musician, was raised on the compositions and arrangements he created for the Count Basie band, and though we may have been unaware of all the arrangements he wrote as a "ghostwriter" as we watched countless TV shows and movies, his influence was there. Sammy's music will live on in perpetuity, continuing to inspire musicians of all ages."

Sammy never stopped working. In fact, he completed his last album with singer Mandy Barnett in late 2019. That album, a tribute to the great Billie Holiday, is scheduled for release in May.

We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Sammy Nestico.


Obituary for Sammy Nestico in the San Diego Union-Tribune


Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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