Jan. 17, 1922–Oct. 11, 1996
I do not believe we ever "get over" the important losses in our lives. We learn to live with them. On this date 17 years ago, I flew from California to Pittsburgh, hoping to see Johnny Costa for the last time. I arrived a few hours too late.
Johnny was a very special person. He played beautiful melodies better than any pianist I've ever heard. The first time I met his wife, Helen Costa, she told me he was just as beautiful a person as the music he played. Almost two decades have passed, and I'm still learning to live with the loss of a precious and irreplaceable friend.
Costa was admired by many jazz giants: Benny Carter, Dave Brubeck, Tommy Dorsey, Dizzy Gillespie, Scott Hamilton, Dick Hyman, Jack Teagarden, Mel Torme, Teddy Wilson, among many others.
During the final decade of Johnny's life, I traveled to Pittsburgh many times, spending as much time with him as his failing health permitted. I met his family and many of his friends, all of whom have been gracious to me, particularly Debbie Costa Elwood, his daughter, and Clara Nelson, his sister, both who became good friends.
I will never forget observing the respect, love, and admiration extended to Johnny everywhere we went— waiters at restaurants, the butcher at the market, the sound engineer at Audiomation recording studio, members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and hundreds of fans who attended his final concert in Harrisburg, PA, men and women who followed his career for decades.
This website is dedicated to Johnny Costa, the man I love, an extraordinary person and nonpareil pianist. It is my hope you will learn about Johnny—the man, his music, and an irreplaceable friend.