Oscar Peterson's Montreal childhood in Saint-Henri
Oscar Peterson was a giant in every sense of the word. Standing well over six feet tall, he'd even been mistaken for a football player. But there's no mistaking his brilliance on the keyboard. His dazzling technique combined with his swinging style made the Montreal native, as one critic remarked, the best damn jazz pianist in the whole world. Oscar Peterson died on December 23, 2007. He was 82.
His father, Daniel Peterson, made sure the house was immersed in music. He was a self-taught musician who worked as a railway porter all his life.
When Oscar Peterson was still young, his father scraped together enough money to buy a piano, even if it meant the family didn't have enough to eat for a few days.
Daniel Peterson was strict but he instilled a sense of discipline and drive in his five children. He saw music as a way out of working on the rails, one of the few opportunities open to black Canadians at the time.
Two important teachers in Oscar Peterson's early musical training were his sister Daisy and the Hungarian-born classical pianist Paul de Marky.
He later credited them for making him believe he had something to offer to the musical world.
• Oscar Peterson started off playing the trumpet and piano when he was five. He focused on classical piano two years later after a bout with tuberculosis left him with weakened lungs.
• One of Peterson's compositions is called Place St. Henri. The piece is named after his childhood home and is part of his Canadiana Suite.
• Daisy Peterson also taught piano to jazz luminaries such as Oliver Jones and Joe Sealy.
Broadcast Date: Feb. 16, 1983
Guest(s): Paul de Marky, Oscar Peterson, Daisy Peterson
Narrator: William Whitehead
Last updated: January 27, 2012
Page consulted on December 6, 2013
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Eighteen-year-old Oscar Peterson delivers a crowd-pleasing performance...
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Oscar Peterson defends white jazz musicians.
Montreal's own wows jazz impresario Norman Granz.
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Nurturing young Oscar Peterson's phenomenal talent.
Young Oscar blossoms with the Johnny Holmes Orchestra.
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Dr. Peterson looks back at his long and illustrious career.
Oscar Peterson receives the Glenn Gould Prize.
Peterson talks about why it took 17 years to write his autobiography.
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