Johnny Costa | Show Song List

(Show originally recorded January 19, 1988)
Johnny Costa, photographed at Pittsburgh's KDKA in 1955. Johnny Costa was born in 1922 in Arnold, Pa. The son of Italian immigrants, Costa began playing the violin at age 5. At age ten, Costa got on the road to playing the piano, when a neighbor taught him to play the accordion.
In high school, Costa made the switch to piano and became fascinated with jazz, and especially, pianist Art Tatum. He learned to play just like his idol, and even got a chance to play for the legendary pianist at a local Pittsburgh club. Tatum referred to the young Costa as "The White Art Tatum."

After high school, Costa went to New York and briefly worked with the Tommy Reynolds band, before volunteering for military service. When he returned home from World War II, he went on to Carnegie-Mellon University where he studied with Composer Nicolai Lopatnicoff and earned two degrees -- one in music composition, the other in music education.

Costa went into the emerging world of television after graduating from Carnegie Mellon, working as the musical director for Pittsburgh's pioneering station, KDKA. He worked on several programs and even hosted his own television program: The Wonderful World Of Johnny Costa. While there, Costa met Fred Rogers, who was working on a children's television program. Rogers hired Costa to perform and arrange music for the new show, and in 1965, Costa officially left the station to become the musical director for Mister Rogers Neighborhood, one of the most popular and best-loved series on PBS.

In the '50s, Costa recorded several jazz albums and toured briefly with a trio. He also found time to play in clubs in and around Pittsburgh throughout his TV career. Though he continued working with Fred Rogers on "the Neighborhood," he resumed his recording career in the early 1990s, after Dick Hyman suggested him to a Chiaroscuro Records executive. Costa recorded four albums for this label, and an additional Christmas album on L&M, before his death in 1996.

Set List for Johnny Costa on Piano Jazz:
  • "Mr. Rogers' Medley" (Costa, Rogers)
  • "Begin The Beguine" (Porter)
  • "Our Love Is Here To Stay" (George, Ira Gershwin)
  • "Love Walked In" (George, Ira Gershwin)
  • "My Funny Valentine" (Hart, Rodgers)
  • "Tea For Two Potpourri" (Irving, Youmans)
  • "How Long Has This Been Going On?" (George, Ira Gershwin)
  • "Love For Sale" (Porter)