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Music in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Generations of youngsters have grown up with and been comforted by Mr. Rogers.

Mr. Rogers“Fred McFeely Rogers, better known to millions of American children as Mr. Rogers, [was] the creator and executive producer of the longest-running children’s program on public television, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. While commercial television most often offers children animated cartoons and many educational programs employ the slick, fast-paced techniques of commercial television, Rogers’ approach is as unique as his content. He simply talks with his young viewers. Although his program provides a great deal of information, the focus is not upon teaching specific facts or skills but upon acknowledging the uniqueness of each child and affirming his or her importance…

“The pacing of the program also approximates that of an in-depth conversation between friends. Rogers speaks slowly, allowing time for children to think about what he has said and to respond at home. And psychologists studying the show verify that children do respond. He also takes time to examine objects around him or to do simple chores such as feed his fish. Although he invites other ‘neighbors,’ such as pianist Van Cliburn, to share their knowledge, the warm rapport also allows him to tackle personal subjects, such as fears of the dark or the arrival of a new baby…” —The Museum of Broadcast Communications

Frederick “Fred” Rogers (1928-2003), who was also an ordained Presbyterian minister, hosted Mr. Rogers Neighborhood from 1968 to 2001. As “Mister Rogers,” he entertained millions of viewers, children as well as adults. Throughout his life, he was a visible and tireless advocate for the welfare of children and quality television programming. His presence and popularity played a huge role in raising awareness and funding for Public Broadcasting.

Mr. Rogers died from stomach cancer in 2003 at the age of 74.

Music in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

When reminiscing about Mr. Rogers, many favorite characters will likely come to mind: Mr. McFeely the delivery man, King Friday, Prince Tuesday, Handyman Negri, Henrietta Pussycat…

And likely you remember THE MUSIC, although if someone says “jazz,” Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood may not be the venue that immediately comes to mind.
But indeed, some of the best jazz music ever created was made by piano virtuoso John “Johnny” Costa for Mister Rogers. Think about the show right now. Can’t you hear that great piano playing in your mind?

Johnny Costa“Every day, Costa and his trio performed in the studio as the show was recorded. In addition to the show’s recognizable main theme, they played the trolley whistles, Mr. McFeely’s frenetic Speedy Delivery piano plonks, the vibraphone flute-toots as Fred fed his fish, and all of Rogers’ entrance and exit songs—all live.” —Wikipedia

John Costa, born in 1922, died in 1996. (After Costa’s death, he was succeeded by Michael Moricz for the remainder of the series.)

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