Oscar Peterson Bio
Internationally renowned, Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson has entertained the world with
his mastery and prowess over the piano for 50 years. Born in Montreal's St. Henri district on
August 15, 1925, he was the fourth of five children to his parents, Daniel and Kathleen.
All of the Peterson children (Fred, Daisy, Charles, Oscar and May) were introduced to music at
an early age. Their father, a porter with Canadian Pacific Railways, learned to play piano on his
own while in the merchant marine. He taught all his children piano until they achieved a certain
proficiency. It was at this point, during his high school years, that Oscar came to study with an
accomplished classical pianist, Hungarian Paul de Marky, who taught Oscar "technique and
speedy fingers". He also helped Oscar come to believe that he had something special to give to
the music world.
At 14 years of age, Oscar's older sister Daisy got him to audition for a CBC national amateur
piano competition, which he went on to win. This opened the doors to performances on a weekly
radio show in Montreal, and later performances on CBC's The Happy Gang. When Oscar told
his family he'd decided to make a career of playing jazz piano, his father told him, "You have to
be the best, there is no second best."
Oscar Peterson never looked back. By the 50’s he was recording in New York, touring
internationally and playing venues like Carnegie Hall. During his career as a jazz pianist, which
has so far spanned over five decades, he has played with, and come to know, many of the genre’s
greatest contributors, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Nat King Cole,
Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Roy Eldridge, Stan Getz and Charlie Parker, just to name a
In 1964 Oscar's first major composition, Canadiana Suite, was released. And it was during this
time that he developed a relationship with German audio pioneer Hans Georg. Some of the best
recordings of Oscar's work, both with the renown Oscar Peterson Trio and as a soloist, would
result from these intimate sessions.
Today, Oscar resides in Mississauga and is playing more solo recitals, doing less touring and
more composing. He's been honoured by his native country with the Order of Canada and a
postage stamp featuring his picture. Internationally, Oscar has been recognized by many other
institutions and organizations for his iconic status in the jazz community and the music industry.
In 1997 he received a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement and an International Jazz Hall of Fame
Oscar Peterson is still regarded as one of the greatest jazz musicians ever to play, compose,
record and promote the first truly modern North American art form.