Johnny Costa

Piano, Musical Artist

1922 – 1996

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Who was Johnny Costa?

Johnny Costa was an American jazz pianist born in Arnold, Pennsylvania. Given the title "the White Tatum" by jazz legend Art Tatum, Costa is best known for his work as musical director of the children's television program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

Costa learned to play accordion at age 7 and was reading music three years later. Frank Oliver, Costa's high school music teacher, urged him to learn the piano after discovering that Costa had perfect pitch. Costa graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with two degrees, in music and in education. In case he failed as a musician, Costa prepared himself to teach. Following college graduation, he began work the same day as the house pianist for a radio station in Pittsburgh. Eventually he performed the same role for KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. He provided piano and organ music for many programs, eventually teaming with Fred Rogers to arrange and perform the music heard on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for which he served as musical director until his death in 1996.

Costa's first recording was The Amazing Johnny Costa, a Savoy LP released in 1955 and reissued on CD as Neighborhood in 1989. Although his increasingly lucrative career was beginning to bring him international attention, the amount of time away from his family and friends led him to live and perform only in western Pennsylvania. He stopped traveling and gave up his job as musical director of The Mike Douglas Show. He returned to Pittsburgh and remained there for the rest of his life.

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Born
Jan 17, 1922
Arnold
Also known as
  • Costa, Johnny
  • John Costa
  • John D. Costa
Spouses
Children
Nationality
  • United States of America
Profession
Education
  • Carnegie Mellon University
Died
Oct 11, 1996
Pittsburgh

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

Citation

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