Sammy Nestico

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Sammy Nestico

Sammy Nestico (born Samuel Louis Nistico, February 6, 1924 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is a composer and arranger of big band music. Nestico is best known for his arrangements for the Count Basie orchestra.[1]


He has been a professional music arranger since 1941, when he became a staff arranger for ABC radio station WCAE in Pittsburgh at age 17. During his career, he arranged music for the Count Basie Orchestra (1967–1984), the US Air Force Band (15 yrs) and the US Marine Band (5 years) both in Washington, DC. In addition, he played the trombone in the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, and Charlie Barnet.

In 1998-1999 Nestico was a professor at the University of Georgia, teaching commercial orchestration and conducting the Studio Orchestra. He also directed music programs at Los Angeles Pierce College, Woodland Hills, CA, Westinghouse Memorial High School, and Wilmerding, PA.

During his long career in the television and film industry, he has arranged and conducted projects for artists such as Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan, Toni Tennille, Frank Sinatra, Phil Collins, Barbra Streisand, and Count Basie, among others. As orchestrator, he has worked on nearly seventy television programs, including Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Charlie's Angels, and The Mod Squad.

He has also written commercial jingles for Anheuser-Busch, Zenith, Ford Motor Company, Mattel Toys, Pittsburgh Paints, the National Guard, Dodge, Remington Bank, Americard and more.

Nestico has published nearly 600 numbers for school groups and many for professional big bands. He has conducted and recorded his arrangements with several leading European Radio Jazz Orchestras including the BBC Big Band in London, Germany's SWR Big Band and NDR Big Band and the DR Big Band.

Sammy Nestico received a Bachelor's degree in music education from Duquesne University in 1950, and has received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from his alma mater, as well as numerous awards.


  • 1982: Dark Orchid (Palo Alto)
  • 1984: Basie Big Band
  • 1986: Night Flight
  • 2000: Basie and Beyond – Quincy Jones/Sammy Nestico Orchestra (Qwest Warner)
  • 2002: This is the Moment
  • 2004: A Portrait of Sammy (Fenwood)
  • 2004: No Time Like the Present - Sammy Nestico and the SWR Big Band (SWR Music)

As arranger[edit]

With Count Basie

With Frank Sinatra

With Sarah Vaughan

The Sammy Nestico Award[edit]

The Airmen of Note, the premier jazz ensemble of the USAF, sponsor an annual competition[2] for composers and arrangers of big band music, in honor of Sammy Nestico. Previous winners are:

Year Award Recipient Place of Residence
2014 William Longo II Miramar, FL
2011 Scott Nimmer Taylorville, IL
2010 Jeremy Levy Hannibal, MO
2009 Sara Jacovino Middlebury, CT
2008 Michael Dease Augusta, Ga.
2007 Chris Schmitz Anchorage, Alaska
2006 Carl Murr Dallas, Texas
2005 David Cutler Pittsburgh, Pa
2004 Stephen Smith Denton, Texas
2003 Aaron Lington Denton, Texas
2002 Earl MacDonald Mansfield Center, Conn.
2001 Curtis Stephan Carrollton, Texas
2000 Jeff Antoniuk Annapolis, Md.
1999 no award issued -
1998 Joey Sellers Brooklyn, N.Y.
1997 Lyle Durland Provo, Utah
1996 William Straub Syracuse, N.Y.
1996 Charles Bayne Dallas, Texas


External links[edit]