Peter Cassino began studying the piano at age 7 in Queens, New York. When he was 12, a family friend gave him a boxed set of The Hot Club of France recordings, which featured Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. This music had a profound effect on him, and shortly after hearing these recordings, he switched his piano studies from classical to jazz piano. His primary piano teacher during this time was pianist and vibraphonist Eddie Costa.
As a young teenager Peter played with various bands during the summer months at several hotels in the Catskill Mountains. Upon graduating from high school in Manhattan, he spent two years taking extension courses at Julliard School of Music while playing gigs and local jam sessions.
In 1961 at the young age of 21, Peter joined the growing number of aspiring artists and musicians who moved to Europe to grow and develop their creativity. He started his career in West Berlin and worked with his piano trio and also had the privilege of playing with a number of prominent musicians who were also living in West Berlin during that time. Among them were trumpeter Benny Bailey, alto saxophonist Leo Wright, and drummer Joe Harris.
When he returned to the United States in 1969 he completed his formal music studies. He received his BA in piano from School for the Arts at Boston University, piano studies with Leon Tumarkin and Anthony di Bonaventura. And completed a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory where he studied with Jakie Byard and George Russell.
Peter resides in Boston and has performed with Marty Ehrlich, Andrew D’Angelo, Matt Wilson, Oscar Noriega, Bob Moses, Ed Schuller, George Schuller, Stan Strickland, Charlie Kohlhase, Joe Morris, Paquito D’Rivera, and others. He’s been awarded two performance grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and was part of the touring roster of the New England Foundation for the Arts for over 10 years. He has also performed in Japan, Moscow, and Armenia. Peter has taught at Dean Junior College in Franklin, Massachusetts, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth, The All Newton Music School, The Community Music Center in Boston, and other institutions. Peter began teaching at the Longy School of Music in 1979 and started Longy’s first jazz department. In 1996 the department developed a new curriculum and was renamed The Department of Modern American Music to reflect its philosophy as well as its expanded mission.
“The delicate balance of skills needed to successfully educate and prepare aspiring musicians is daunting. Entry level professionals have an increasing need for expanded and competitive music skills. The curriculum of the Department of Jazz and Contemporary Music which I designed reflects my beliefs about this balance is best achieved.
High level core instrumental training with a balance of theory and performance. Music students need to develop secondary music skills such as being a jazz musician and being able to play a job with the local civic orchestra . There is a long list of skills associated with instrument and musical genre and this is best done with positive and highly motivational instruction. Maintaining this standard as a Chair or manager of the Department of Jazz and Contemporary Music depends on my ability to help students develop as artists and individuals with something to say.”