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From Montreal to the world! Oscar Peterson, Canadian music superstar



Before Drake or the Weeknd had the music world buzzing, there was a man from Montreal who made many people pay attention to what Canadian musicians and performers could do!

Who are we talking about?

An older Oscar Peterson sits in his favourite place, at the piano surrounded by a band of musicians

Oscar Peterson plays the piano in 1986. (Bill Becker/Canadian Press)

Oscar Peterson was a jazz pianist from Montreal. He was born in 1925 (boy, that was a long time ago!), to parents from the Caribbean.

He started playing the trumpet and the piano by the age of five. He loved playing the piano so much that he would actually practice for six hours a day!

His talent and hard work helped him to win the CBC’s national music competition when he was only 14 years old. While most kids were starting high school, Oscar started a professional career in jazz.

It just goes to show you that no matter how old you are, you can be successful if you stay focused and give it your best effort!

What’s jazz?

A jazz band plays while walking down a street in New Orleans, followed by a huge crowd of music lovers

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band plays in the streets of New Orleans, 2006. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Jazz is a type of music that was created by African-Americans living in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the United States. Other types of music including rhythm and blues (R&B), rock 'n' roll and even rap were influenced a lot by jazz.

Musicians like Oscar Peterson helped to create the music that Drake, Alicia Keys, Ariana Grande and other popular artists perform today!

What makes Oscar Peterson a superstar?

The marquee from the Gem Theatre says that it's an Exclusive Colored Theatre

In the southern United States, there were separate theatres, restaurants and even music clubs for people to go to based on the colour of their skin. (Wikimedia/Lee Russell/Creative Commons)

Oscar had to work hard to make it. There were people that did not like him simply because of the colour of his skin. When he went to play at concerts in the southern part of the United States, he was not allowed to use washrooms, or even ride in taxis that said “whites only.” Oscar did not let this stop him.

He didn’t let the fact that he was from Canada, and the most popular jazz artists were from the United States, stop him either! He continued to practise and gained the respect of musicians and audiences worldwide.

Oscar Peterson was so skilled on the piano, that many experts have said that he is one of the greatest pianists of all time. He performed over 1,200 songs, played at thousands of concerts all over the world and won eight Grammy Awards.

Where can you find him now?

Queen Elizabeth II look on as the statue of Oscar Peterson sitting at his piano is unveiled

Queen Elizabeth II admires the commemorative statue of Oscar Peterson on her trip to Canada in 2010. (John Stillwell.Getty Images)

Oscar Peterson may not be around anymore, but his influence is everywhere, even the music you listen to. Listen for his jazz influence next time you tune in to Drake or Alicia Keys.

You can find him in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. And there is a statue of him outside of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa that was presented by the Queen of England at an official ceremony. Not bad for a kid from a small neighbourhood in Montreal!

He was truly a superstar!