Sammy Nestico  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Samuel Louis Nistico (February 6, 1924 – January 17, 2021), better known as Sammy Nestico, was an American composer and arranger. Nestico is best known for his arrangements for the Count Basie orchestra.



Nestico was born on February 6, 1924 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Nestico joined his high school's beginner orchestra in 1937 as a trombonist. In 1939, he wrote his first arrangement. At age 17, Nestico joined the ABC radio station WCAE in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a trombonist. Nestico received a Bachelor's degree in music education from Duquesne University in 1950. He later received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from his alma mater.

During his career, he arranged music for the Count Basie Orchestra (1967–1984), the U.S. Air Force Band (fifteen years) and the U.S. Marine Band (five years) both in Washington, D.C. In addition, he played trombone in the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, and Charlie Barnet. He 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.

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

Nestico composed commercial jingles for Anheuser-Busch, Zenith, Ford Motor Company, Mattel Toys, Pittsburgh Paint, the National Guard, Dodge, Remington Bank, and Americard.


Nestico published nearly 600 numbers for school groups and many for professional big bands.


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, California, Westinghouse Memorial High School, and Wilmerding, Pennsylvania.


Nestico died on January 17, 2021 at the age of 96.


  • 1982 Dark Orchid (Palo Alto)
  • 1986 Night Flight (Sea Breeze)
  • 1998 Big Band Favorites of Sammy Nestico (Summit)
  • 2000 Sammy Nestico – For You to Play (Jamey Aebersold)
  • 2000 Basie & Beyond The Quincy Jones-Sammy Nestico Orchestra (Qwest / Warner Bros.)
  • 2005 No Time Like the Present (Hänssler)
  • 2005 Basie Cally Sammy: The Music of Count Basie and Sammy Nestico (Hänssler)
  • 2009 Sammy Nestico, Vol. 3: Fun Time (Hänssler)
  • 2011 Fun Time & More Live (Hänssler)
  • 2017 A Cool Breeze with Sammy Nestico with the SWR Big Band (SWR Music)

As arranger

With Count Basie

With Frank Sinatra

With Sarah Vaughan

The Sammy Nestico Award

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

Year Award Recipient Place of Residence
2016 Ike Kalapos Deep River, CT
2014 William Longo II Miramar, FL
2011 Scott Ninmer Taylorville, IL
2010 Jeremy Levy Hannibal, MO
2009 Sara Jacovino Middlebury, CT
2008 Michael Dease Augusta, GA
2007 Christopher Schmitz Anchorage, AK
2006 Carl Murr Dallas, TX
2005 David Cutler Pittsburgh, PA
2004 Stephen Smith Denton, TX
2003 Aaron Lington Denton, TX
2002 Earl MacDonald Mansfield Center, CT
2001 Curtis Stephan Carrollton, TX
2000 Jeff Antoniuk Annapolis, MD
1999 no award issued -
1998 Joey Sellers Brooklyn, NY
1997 Lyle Durland Provo, UT
1996 William Straub Syracuse, NY
1996 Charles Bayne Dallas, TX

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sammy Nestico" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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