Peter Nero (born Bernard Nierow, May 22, 1934) is an American pianist and pops conductor.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, As Bernard Nierow, Nero started his formal music training at the age of seven. He studied piano under Frederick Bried. By the time he was fourteen, he was accepted to New York City's High School of Music and Art and won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music. Constance Keene, his teacher and mentor, once wrote in an issue of Keyboard Classics, "Vladimir Horowitz was Peter's greatest fan!" He graduated from Brooklyn College in 1956.
Nero recorded his first album in 1961, and won a Grammy Award that year for "Best New Artist." Since then, he has received another Grammy, garnered ten additional nominations and released 67 albums. Nero's early association with RCA Records produced 23 albums in eight years. His subsequent move to Columbia Records resulted in a million-selling single and album - Summer of '42.
His first major national TV success came at the age of seventeen when he was chosen to perform Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue on Paul Whiteman's TV Special. He subsequently appeared on many top variety and talk shows including 11 guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, and numerous appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Hailed as one of the premier interpreters of Gershwin, Nero starred in the Emmy Award-winning NBC Special, S'Wonderful, S'Marvelous, S'Gershwin. Other TV credits include performances on PBS-TV Piano Pizzazz and with the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. on its July 4 special titled A Capitol Fourth. Nero served as music director and pianist for the PBS-TV special The Songs of Johnny Mercer: Too Marvelous for Words with co-stars Johnny Mathis, Melissa Manchester and many members of The POPS.
In 1963 Nero composed and performed the musical score for the major motion picture Sunday in New York. The title song has been recorded by over two dozen vocalists and the score was nominated for both a Golden Globe and Hollywood Reporter Award. He also made an appearance in the film alongside Jane Fonda, Rod Taylor, and Cliff Robertson. Additionally Jane Fonda's character gave her brother (Robertson) a Nero recording album during the film which was most probably an early form of product placement.
Nero has worked with a long list of notable musicians over the years such as Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Andy Williams, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Diane Schuur, Johnny Mathis, Roger Kellaway, Elton John, and others.
Nero's recordings over the last 15 years include albums with full symphony orchestra: On My Own, Classical Connections and My Way. He recorded Peter Nero and Friends, which contains collaborations with Mel Torme, Maureen McGovern and Doc Severinsen, among others. Nero's latest albums are romantic albums titled Love Songs for a Rainy Day and More in Love. By popular demand, four of his earlier recordings have been re-issued. Nero most recently appears in Rod Stewart's album, As Time Goes By: The Great American Songbook, Volume II.
Awards and honors
In an issue of Keyboard Magazine, Ray Charles, when asked about his favorite pianist was quoted as saying, "Art Tatum could play anything he wanted to. He's one of the few people who I truly believe could play anything he thought of... and Peter Nero plays his buns off!"
Nero's long list of honors include six Honorary Doctorates, the most recent from Drexel University in 2004, and the prestigious International Society of Performing Arts Presenters Award for "Excellence in the Arts." He is also included on two historic walks of fame - one in Philadelphia, and one in Miami, Florida. In 1999, he received the Pennsylvania Distinguished Arts Award, presented by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. Previous honorees include Marian Anderson, James Michener, Andrew Wyeth and Riccardo Muti. In 2009 Nero was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Federation of Musicians.
One of Nero's greatest achievements is being the founding Music Director of the world renowned Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.
He currently is the artistic director and conductor of Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.
He is an active participant committed to many important causes, including the funding of school music programs, fundraising for the building of new arts centers across the country, as well as research for cancer, dystonia and autism.
Nero has long been a devotee and advocate of consumer electronics. His expertise has led him to be dubbed a "technocrat" by leaders of the industry. While computers and other electronics have made him "the Gadget King," he still makes music on the traditional Steinway concert grand piano.
He is the father of two children, Beverly and Jedd, and two grandchildren, Robert and Nicole Nero.