Hogtown Hometown Heroes – Oscar Peterson

From the 427 to the River Rouge, Lake Ontario on up to Steeles Ave, we bring you the city’s best, past present and future.

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, or O.P., to close friends was an accomplished and influential pianist, composer and distinguished Canadian public figure.

Born in Montreal Quebec, Peterson is often considered one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, having a long and distinguished career spanning 60 years. During his illustrious career,  OP  took part in several important recordings and performed across the globe many times over. Peterson is credited with winning numerous Grammy awards.

Oscar Peterson’s reputation as one of the leading pianists in jazz solidifies itself as one goes down the list of collaborators that Peterson had played with during his working life. Such heavyweights as Joe Pass, Clark Terry and Ray Brown, are among the legends that could be seen swinging by Oscars side.

Peterson, although having roots in Montreal, has deep connections to Hogtown. From 1991-1994, Oscar was named Chancellor of Toronto’s York University, which is the honorary head of the school. Just a few weeks after OP’s death, the Province of Ontario introduced a 4 million dollar performance scholarship in Peterson’s name. In addition, 1 million dollars in scholarship funding was set up for underprivileged York students, in tribute to Oscar.

In 2004, The city of Toronto named the courtyard of it’s TD centre, Oscar Peterson square, in honor of this great jazz musician. 2005 saw a new school in suburban Toronto called the Oscar Peterson school. Peterson commented on the naming of the institution, saying that is was,” A most unexpected and moving tribute.”

Due to kidney failure after years of complications as a result of a stroke, Peterson passed away in 2007. He left a wife and eight children in total, along with a legacy that will remain in our city’s infrastructure for all time.