On the Set
in "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"


      If Fred Rogers was the heart of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," Johnny Costa was its soul. Costa always created the right musical mood and sounds to correspond with each setting and scene.
     Since the beginning of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" in 1965 until his death in 1996, Costa served as its musical director—and pianist, conductor and arranger. Even after his death, much of the Neighborhood music aired on the program continued to be Costa's. When the credits rolled at the end each program, Costa's name remained as Musical Director.
   
  I snapped this photograph in January 1995 during a taping break. Here, Costa dubs in a needed second or two more of music.
      Costa never liked replaying a piece or segment of music. "The first take is almost always the best," he said throughout his career. And the vast majority of his music was created "on the fly." Studio recordings were often first takes. Sometimes the music of a particular Neighborhood segment was a few seconds short, so between tapings Costa added a few seconds to complete a particular scene.