Friday Performance Pick – 115

Nestico, Songs of Erin and The Boys of Wexford

shamrock-irelandSince St. Patrick’s Day falls on Friday this year, it seems appropriate to hear some Irish music. Of course, Nestico doesn’t sound like an Irish name, but never mind that, it’s a name you should know.

Sammy Nestico (b. 1924) arranged the Irish tunes in the featured video for the United States Marine Band. He served as the arranger for the Marine Band and also for the U.S. Air Force jazz ensemble, the “Airmen of Note.” Prior to his military service, Sammy played trombone in the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, and Gene Krupa. After his military service, he went on to become one of the most sought-after composers and arrangers in Hollywood, working with more big-name entertainers than we could mention here.

I call him Sammy because Professor Carol and I spent some time visiting Sammy at his home awhile back and recording an half-hour interview with him. We traded stories over lunch and generally had a great time. It’s easy to see how Sammy’s energy and generosity have made him an outstanding educator and mentor to young musicians.

But why did he make this arrangement of The Boys of Wexford? Because as the arranger of the band known as “The President’s Own,” he did at the request of John F. Kennedy after Kennedy’s visit to his ancestral home in 1963. Sammy tells the story beginning at about the 18:00 mark:

As they say, watch the whole thing. You’ll find it a half hour very well spent hearing Sammy’s tales of working in the music business from the Big Band Era to today.

And, of course, listen to the arrangement in this video of The Marine’s Band tribute to Sammy Nestico.

Image: Shamrock Royal Badge of Ireland: Sodacan (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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