By Michael Laskow
Peter in his home studio during his last few years.
There have been countless times that I’ve reflected on how much good TAXI has done for musicians during our 27-year history. Record deals, TV placements, film placements, #1 records, #1 songs, gold records, and platinum records have all been part of the company’s history.
I think all of us who have worked at TAXI have had special memories we hold near and dear, but there’s one story above all others that made us particularly proud. That is Peter Sivo’s story.
Pete was a TAXI member for about 25 years! Through a TAXI connection, he signed a publishing deal, and for the remainder of his years he repeatedly saw his music placed in some really big TV shows and feature films. Peter Sivo lived his dream of having millions of people hear his music.
It’s bittersweet that this will be the last time I get to feature Peter in this newsletter, as he passed away on January 14, 2019. He was 95 years old, and surrounded by family when he slipped away. They were all listening to his music at the time of his passing :-)
Peter had become sort of a “mascot” (in the best possible way) to all of us who have worked here and known him. When I started TAXI in 1992, I had an image in my mind’s eye of a disenfranchised songwriter that lived somewhere other than one of the music centers like Los Angeles or New York City.
Little did I know at the time that a senior citizen living in New York’s Hudson Valley would prove that geography and age were irrelevant when it came to helping our members find success. Peter Sivo created a body of work (about 600 copyrights) starting in the mid 1940s that would remain undiscovered for more than half a century.
All Peter wanted was for his music to be heard and appreciated by millions of people. The entire TAXI family is extremely proud that we were able to help him live his dream during his golden years.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that a terrific publisher Peter met through TAXI was responsible for the majority of his placements. I can’t mention that company by name for fear that they would get bombarded with emails. Suffice it to say, that TAXI and that publisher have enjoyed helping the talented Mr. Sivo, and both companies loved brining joy to his life.
We will miss Peter Sivo, and we relish the fact that his music was heard by millions of people while he was alive, and it will continue to be heard for many years to come. That’s a legacy that all musicians would love to claim. Rest in peace, Peter.
If you’d like to read an interview we did with Peter in 2015, you’ll find it below!
Thanks for doing this interview, Peter! All of us at TAXI are very proud of you for finally realizing your dream of getting your music heard by millions at your age, which I should point out to our readers, is 92 years young! But, we’ll get to that in a minute. First, I want to go back to what you told me in an email recently – you actually danced to Benny Goodman playing live back in the 1940s. Tell us about that!
Back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, all the major theaters had stage shows. Big bands were a major attraction. I used to hitchhike to New York City and Philadelphia to see them. In the Atlantic City Beautiful Ballroom, a quarter of a mile out of the Atlantic; on the Steel Pier is where I danced to most of them. I also danced to some bands at the Med du Brooks Club in New Jersey. I don’t think I ever missed a day.
What year were you born?
Do you come from a musical family?
No, I’m the only member of the family that played music.
How old were you when you started playing music, and what was your first instrument?
I was 12 years old when I began to play, and the piano was my first instrument.
What instruments do you play now?
To this day, the only thing I really play is piano or other keyboards that I need to create my music.
Peter in the studio in decades past.
How old were you when you began to compose or write songs?
I was just 15 years old when I started to compose my own music. I got my very first copyright in 1938!
When did you do your first recordings?
The first time I ever recorded anything was in 1940, and I recorded the song in a music store on a device that used cut glass as the recording medium.
Did you have more players on those early recordings, or was it just you?
Did you pitch your music to record labels back then?
No, for me, music was just a hobby, and it’s still a hobby for me to this day.
How did you first learn about TAXI, and how long have you been a member?
I don’t remember exactly when I first heard about TAXI, but I think I’ve been a member since at least 1995.
Did you ever think it would become the vehicle for getting your old master recordings singed to a publisher in the 2000s, and eventually start getting placements in some great TV shows?
Tell us about some of those placements.
First of all, let me say up front so you can better understand that my music was just a hobby for me. I never had to buy food or pay any bills from my music earnings. I’ve had a successful career in industrial management.
My relatives and friends all told me how good my music was, but I would say their opinions were too kind. I needed to know if my music was really professional, and then along came your great idea, TAXI – to have songs screened by knowledgeable experts. Wow, just what I needed! So I jumped on board!
Getting my music forwarded by TAXI’s A&R team gave me the answer I needed. After some time, I had over 200 forwards, and some deals were offered to me, but I turned down many of them because they wouldn’t split the publisher’s share with me. Some of my songs were actually forwarded three or four times! Most of the music that was forwarded was Latin and Jazz instrumentals, so I created a studio orchestra – “El Toque Latino Orchestra” and “Peter Sivo Band,” and so far, I’ve put out seven albums that are distributed by CD Baby. I’m very happy that my music is now getting heard by people all over the world.
I would not have done this without all the forwards by TAXI. A publisher heard my third album, “Romantica,” and offered me a great 50/50 contract for all 14 songs. Two have been placed on New Girl (FOX); two on Ben & Kate (FOX); and one on Disney’s movie, Million Dollar Arm. I just mailed in the contracts for five more songs with another great publisher I met by submitting to a TAXI listing. I’ve now got 38 pieces of music that are published. Thanks, TAXI!
Peter, while in the U.S. Navy.
Editor’s note: Here’s an excerpt from a Member Deals email we sent out in January of 2014, that gives even more information on another one of Peter’s placements!
“Back in August, 2013, the CEO of a Music Library that got Peter's music through a TAXI listing, entered into a $12,500 contract for his back catalog! Since then, the Library has placed Peter’s song “Come My Love” on the A&E network's hit TV show Bates Motel in Episode 206, which is scheduled to air sometime in spring 2014!
The Music Library loves Peter, and boasted that he is the ‘youngest 90-year-old composer’ they know. They went on to state that ‘his alacrity, passion for music and kindness come through in his emails, and we are looking forward to getting Peter more placements!’ How exciting! Congratulations, Peter, we're all very happy for you, and proud to have helped you become successful with your music!”
How did you feel the first time you heard that you got a placement?
[For me] it was always [about] the TAXI forwards—that was really my goal. I just wanted to know if my music was good or not! The placements are icing on the cake, and they make me feel great! It’s similar to how I felt when Tex Beneke, Chief Petty Officer, who was fronting one of the Glenn Miller service bands, and he used two of my arrangements in 1942. But that’s another story!!!!
Album art from The Peter Sivo Band, 1946 - 1961
Have you seen any of the TV shows that have had your music in them?
No, I haven’t!
Are you still writing and composing new music today?
Yes, but it’s limited by my health. I’m in my 90s!
What genres do you mostly work in?
Latin, Jazz, and Pop. I only write and record instrumentals now.
Do you have a home studio that you run yourself?
Yes, like many TAXI members, I have a studio in my bedroom – 16 tracks.
How did you learn to run the gear? Most people of your age would probably find that to be a huge technological challenge! Heck, we know people who are half your age that have a hard time with the tech stuff!
I read the manuals, and my son Peter Sivo, Jr. has been very helpful in helping me learn how to use the gear.
Do you have any advice for other songwriters or composers who are reading this?
Join TAXI. I don’t think saying “Thank You” to TAXI is enough, so let me repeat my philosophy: Living life is like eating a watermelon—you must spit out the seeds if you want to enjoy the fruit, and TAXI has given me more fruit to enjoy. And I am!!!!!!!!!!!!
Well, we certainly like that advice! And thank you so much for doing this interview Peter. All of us at TAXI are very proud of you, happy for you, and we wish you continued success for many, many more years to come!
Here are a couple of Peter’s TV placements: