“The Music of Mister Rogers”

It’s common knowledge that Pittsburgh’s favorite neighbor studied music and composition in college. But was he any good?

“You sure couldn’t call him a singer,” said Joe “Handyman” Negri, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’s” regular guitarist and an authority on the Pittsburgh jazz scene. “But I always thought he wrote nice songs, and he had a very good ear for melody. Music was a huge part of the show.”

Mr. Negri appeared on Fred Rogers’ show for nearly 40 years with pianist (and music director) Johnny Costa, bass player Carl McVicker Jr. and percussionist Bobby Rawsthorne. Mr. Negri will perform at the dedication ceremony for the Mister Rogers Forever stamp March 23 at the Mister Rogers studio at WQED.

Some of the world’s finest performers — including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Van Cliburn, Wynton Marsalis and many others — made appearances on the children’s television show. And what did these musical masters perform when they dropped in?

“They’d always play something by themselves and then something that the kids would recognize from the show,” Mr. Negri said. “A lot of the guests really liked Fred’s song ‘It’s You I like,’ and we wound up playing ‘Tree, Tree, Tree’ with Yo-Yo. It was just beautiful.”

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