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© 2010 Robert Agnel, All Rights Reserved.
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More about Oscar's Life and TimesHis father, Daniel, a CPR porter, led the family band in concerts in Montreal church and community halls. Peterson, the fourth of five children, played trumpet at age five but switched to piano at eight after a year-long battle with tuberculosis. He was guided first by his older sister Daisy Peterson who also taught Oliver Jones, Joe Sealy, Reg Wilson and others in the city's black community. (His brother Chuck was a professional trumpeter; another sister, May, also taught piano.) At 12 he took piano lessons briefly from Lou Hooper; later he attended the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal, and at 15 he studied with Paul de Marky.
After his early career on CBC Radio, Oscar Peterson was not heard with any regularity on the network save via recordings until the 1970s when "Jazz Radio-Canada" broadcast concert performances and "That Midnight Jazz" and "The Entertainers" offered profiles. Peterson himself was host for the short series "Oscar Peterson's Jazz Soloists" in 1984 and "Jazz at the Philharmonic" in 1990. On CBC-TV he was seen in several specials (e.g., "Oscar Peterson Inside" in 1967 and "A Very Special Oscar Peterson" in 1976), as well as in a performance with a 37-piece orchestra of an orchestration of his Canadiana Suite with corresponding scenic footage in 1979 and in a 13-week series, "Oscar Peterson and Friends" in 1980. He was also host in the mid-1970s for CTV's "Oscar Peterson Presents" and BBC TV's "Piano Party". CBC Radio presented a seven-part documentary on Peterson in 1994.
Oscar declined requests from Jimmie Lunceford and Count Basie to move to the USA and join their bands. He wanted to remain close to his home and family in Canada. He did accept an invitation from the US impresario Norman Granz to be 'planted' in the audience at Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) presentation at Carnegie Hall, 18 Sep 1949, and to be brought onstage as a surprise guest. His performance caused a sensation that signaled the start of a major musical career.
Oscar Peterson was awarded numerous honorary degrees, among them: honorary LLD (Carleton) 1973, honorary LLD (Queen's) 1976, honorary LLD (Concordia) 1979, honorary D MUS (Sackville N.S) 1980, honorary LLD (McMaster) 1981, honorary LLD (Victoria) 1981, honorary D LITT (York) 1982, honorary DFA (Northwestern) 1983, honorary LLD (Toronto) 1985, honorary D MUS (Laval) 1985, honorary LLD (British Columbia) 1994, honorary LWCM 1994, honorary DFA (Niagara, New York) 1996, honorary LLD (Western) 1999.