Fonds consists of records pertaining to the life and career of Oscar Peterson as a professional jazz musician. Included is documentation on: his activities as a touring, performing, and recording artist; musical works created by him; honours and awards that he received; and personal and family matters. Among the types of documention in the fonds are: personal and professional correspondence; contracts; concert programmes and tickets; posters and other promotional material; itineraries; notebooks; sound recordings of musical performances by Peterson and others; sound recordings containing composition versions of musical works by Peterson; honours, awards, and tributes in such forms as certificates, diplomas, citations, proclamations, and medallic objects; photographs and graphic art depicting Peterson and other subjects, including works presented to him by fans as tributes; biographical material, including oral history interviews; texts of interviews; coverage of Peterson in print and other media, including press clippings, other print matter, sound recordings of a radio documentary, and records concerning a documentary film; and speeches and writings by Peterson.
Peterson, Oscar, 1925-2007: The pianist and composer Oscar Emmanuel Peterson was born on 15 August 1925 in Montreal to parents of West Indian origin. Oscar Peterson studied piano with his sister Daisy Peterson before pursuing his training with pianists Lou Hooper and Paul de Marky and at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal. In 1940, he won an amateur music contest and about this time began his radio programme Fifteen Minutes Piano Rambling. During 1944-1947 he was a member of the Johnny Holmes Orchestra, and in 1945 he was also a guest on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) programmes Light Up and Listen and The Happy Gang. From 1948 to 1949, he formed a trio with bassist Austin "Ozzie" Roberts, drummer Clarence Jones and, for a time, guitarist Ben Johnson. The trio performed in the Alberta Lounge club and on radio station CFCF in Montreal. Peterson's début outside Canada took place in 1949, when the American impresario Norman Granz invited him to play at a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert at Carnegie Hall in New York. In 1951, under the management of Granz, Peterson formed a new trio (piano, guitar, and bass). With his trio, as a soloist, and as a member of Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic, Peterson gave many concerts in the United States of America, Canada, Europe, and Japan. The Peterson trio that existed from 1953 to 1958 (with Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar) is widely regarded as one of the most cohesive and virtuosic ensembles in the history of jazz. Among the other leading jazz artists who joined the Peterson trio (or quartet) in later years were the drummer Ed Thigpen, the guitarist Joe Pass, and the bassists Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and David Young. In 1990, Peterson re-established his 1953-1958 unit with Brown and Ellis, and this group continued to perform during that decade (often as a quartet with drummer Jeff Hamilton). In addition to recognition as a leader and soloist in his own right, Peterson was noted as an accomplished and sensitive accompanist. While the piano was Peterson's main focus as a performer, he occasionally sang and played other keyboards, such as the organ and (in later years) electronic instruments. In addition to his career as a touring performer, Peterson was also a prolific recording artist and composer. He made his first commercial recordings for the RCA label in Montreal during 1945-1949, and continued to record regularly throughout his career, resulting in an extensive discography numbering in the hundreds of albums. Peterson's best known compositions are his Canadiana Suite and Hymn to Freedom, and among his other notable compositions are Hallelujah Time, Blues for Big Scotia, African Suite, A Royal Wedding Suite, Easter Suite, Samba Sensitive, and the ballet City Lights. Although Peterson's career and reputation had become international by the 1950s, he continued to be based in Canada, residing in Montreal until 1958 and then in Toronto and Mississauga. He participated in numerous festivals throughout the world, including the Stratford Festival, the Festival international de jazz de Montréal, the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Bergen International Festival, the Spoleto Festival, the Ravinia Festival, the Antibes Juan les Pins International Jazz Festival, the North Sea Jazz Festival, and the Molde International Jazz Festival. In 1960 Peterson opened the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto with musicians Ray Brown, Ed Thigpen and Phil Nimmons. During the 1960s, Peterson published his Jazz Exercises and Pieces for the Young Jazz Pianist, and in 1985 he became an adjunct professor of music at York University. On television during the 1970s and early 1980s, he hosted Oscar Peterson Presents (CTV), Piano Party (British Broadcasting Corporation), and Oscar Peterson and Friends (CBC). In 1992, Elitha Peterson Productions Inc., with the support of the National Film Board of Canada and the CBC, produced the documentary In the Key of Oscar on Peterson's life and music, and in 1994 he was the subject the seven-part radio documentary About Oscar, which was broadcast on the CBC. In the late 1990s he issued an educational and biographical resource, the Oscar Peterson Multimedia CD-Rom, which was followed in 2002 by his memoirs, A Jazz Odyssey: The Life of Oscar Peterson. Peterson was the recipient of numerous arts, music industry, academic, and civic honours and awards during his lifetime and posthumously. Among these are numerous honorary degrees and Grammy Awards, frequent winner of polls conducted by Down Beat and other periodicals, Officer and Companion of the Order of Canada (1972 and 1984 respectively), Officer of the Ordre des arts et des lettres in France (1989), Chancellor of York University (1991), Chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec (1991), Order of Ontario (1992), Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement (1992), Glenn Gould Prize in Music and Communication (1993), Japan Art Association's Praemium Imperiale (1999), IMC-UNESCO International Music Prize (2000), and Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art (2003). His compositions Hymn to Freedom and Canadiana Suite were inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008. Peterson, who was a Canadian of African descent, lent his support to efforts to challenge racism and to promote the inclusion of non-majority cultural and racial groups in the media. He was featured in campaigns commemorating and celebrating African Canadians, such as Black History Month. Oscar Peterson died in Mississauga on 23 December 2007.