Gary PetersonGary Peterson was born in St. Paul/MN in 1952. He began playing the organ at age four, picking out tunes on the family’s Hammond spinet. His parents had a substantial library of recordings, ranging from Broadway shows to Louis Armstrong, and so Gary’s musical ear was active almost from birth.
At age seven, Gary began piano and organ studies with Herbert Wigley of Minneapolis, a leading teacher in the classical field, and one of the first educators in the Midwestern US to formalize the teaching of jazz theory and improvisation. Mr. Wigley recognized that Gary’s musical predisposition was in the direction of jazz, and so, along with the necessary studies of classical repertoire, Gary was encouraged to learn standard tunes, and to listen to a broad range of jazz artists. These included Bill Evans, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and organ greats Jimmy Smith and Brother Jack McDuff. While yet in his preteens, Gary went along his parents to a local jazz club, to hear Jack McDuff perform. That night became a defining moment in Gary’s life. McDuff was at the peak of his virtuosity, and Gary sat transfixed by the sheer energy emanating from the bandstand. From that night onward, his first love would always be the Hammond B3. In 1970, Gary auditioned for Gunther Schuller, then president of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Gary was admitted to the school, and studied there for four years, under legendary pianist Jaki Byard. Courses in arranging and composition, taught by the likes of Thad Jones and Frank Foster, were also part of the curriculum at NEC.
The gains in pianistic skills and overall musicianship while at NEC have enabled Gary to thrive in diverse musical environments. For over twenty years, he performed as Music Director and show band pianist for major cruise lines. He continues to perform and teach in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, working with the top players in the region, and backing national acts when they come to town. Most recently, these have included Kevin Mahogany and Barbara Morrison. Credits also include concert appearances with Al Jarreau, and a TV engagement with Oscar Brown, Jr. In addition, Gary plays organ and synthesizer at his church, on a weekly basis.
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