Sammy Nestico

Multi Grammy Award winning composer/arranger 

Sammy Nestico is a Grammy Award winning arranger/composer known for his work with the Count Bassie Orchestra and dozens of recording arists with as Sinatra, Nate King Cole, Nancy Wilson, Paul Anka and more.  He also played the trombone in the big bands of Charlie Barnet, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, and Gene Krupa.  Nesitco is also a noted music educator who creates compositions and arrangement performed by thousands of school bands and orchestra.

"He is a Big Big Talent with a Big Big Heart" - Quincy Jones

Sammy Nestico was born in Pittsburgh in 1924. Growing up in the 1930's he was a fan of the big swing bands including his favorite Tommy Dorsey. He saved his meal money to buy records and study the music.  Sammy started playing a school supplied trombone in the 8th grade at Oliver High School. He began playing in local nightclubs in the 10th grade. At the age of 17 in 1941, Sammy played trombone in the studio band of ABC radio station, WCAE in Pittsburgh and became a staff arranger. Through trial and error he taught himself arranging.  In 1946 he joined the Charlie Barnet band as a trombonist and toured with fellow Pittsburgher Billy May.  When Barnett's band went to Hollywood, Sammy returned to Pittsburgh and enrolled in Duquense Univesity.  His mother wanted him to have a steady career as a teacher. Sammy received a B.S. degree in music education from Duquesne University in 1950. 

Sammy taught high school for a year and hated it.  He enlisted in the the United States Air Force Band and served as its staff arranger for 15 years in Washington, D.C.  He was also the leader of the Airmen of Note, the top Air Force jazz ensemble.  Sammy then enlisted with the United States Marine Band in Washington, serving for five years as the chief arranger and director of the White House orchestra during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

In 1970 Sammy learned that he was a cousin to Count Basie's tenor saxophonist Sal Nistico. Sammy visited with Sal when the Basie band was playing in Washington. Sal looked at the music that Sammy was writing and said to Sammy “You ought to write for Basie.” He invited Sammy to meet the Count. Trombonist Grover Washington, another Pittsburgher, introduced Sammy to Basie. The Count asked Sammy to write some arrangements.  Sammy sent him his compositions "The Queen Bee", "Quincy and the Count" and other tunes. Three months later Grover called Sammy saying, “The Chief likes your charts. Write some more.” Sammy wrote more and they recorded the album "Straight Ahead".  Sammy moved to California to continue working with Basie. Sammy was the composer/arranger for the Count Basie orchestra from 1970 to 1984. He directed the recording of ten albums of Count Basie's original music, winning Grammy awards for four. During this time he was also an arranger for Capitol Records and co-wrote the equivalent of 63 albums.  

As a song-writer Sammy has collaborated with Steve Allen, Stan Freberg, Bobby Troupe and Johnny Mercer. He has orchestrated music for films produced by 20th Century Fox, Universal, Paramount, Warner Brothers, MGM and Columbia.   His film credits include the Color Purple, Cactus Flower, Analyze This, Blue Lagoon, Silent Movie, and Heaven Can Wait.  Sammy arranged and/or conducted albums for Phil Collins, Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan, Toni Tennille, Patti Austin, Nancy Wilson, Pia Zadora, Paul Anka, Pat Boone, Ronnie Milsap, Daniel Rodriguez and others. 

He has dozens of credits in television as an arranger writing specials for Julie Andrews, George Burns, Gene Kelly, Merv Griffin, Mary Tyler Moore, Goldie Hawn, The Grammy Awards, The Tonight Show, Perry Como, Toni Tennille, Liza Minelli, Bob Hope and many more. He orchestrated the music of Mission Impossible, The Tony Randall Show, Medical Center, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Hawaii Five-O, The Bob Newhart Show, Gomer Pyle, The Streets of San Fransisco, Mannix, Mayberry RFD, MOD Squad, The Bionic Woman, Cannon, Emergency, Columbo, Charlie’s Angels, The Lou Grant Show, M.A.S.H. and fifty others. He has written commercials for Anheuser Busch, Zenith, the Ford Motor Company, Mattel Toys, Pittsburgh Paints, the National Guard, Dodge, Remington Bank Americard and more. 

Nestico's arrangements are played by leading symphonies and have been recorded by the Boston Pops and Andre Kostelanetz Orchestras.  He has also published 600 works that are performed by high school and college music ensembles across America.

Nestico has been honored by ASMAC (American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers) and BBAA (Big Band Academy of America). The United States Air Force Band, Washington, D.C. sponsors a yearly award program entitled The Sammy Nestico Arranging Award. Duquense University has awarded him an honorary doctorate in music and a Distinguished Alumni award. In 2005 he received an honorary doctor of music degree from Virignia's Shenandoah University.


Sammy Nestico Songs and Arrangements



Tribute to Sammy with Quincy Jones