Mint launches coin commemorating legendary Montreal jazz pianist Oscar Peterson

By The Canadian Press

The Royal Canadian Mint is launching a special coin celebrating late Canadian music legend Oscar Peterson.

The one-dollar circulation coin was unveiled in Toronto Thursday morning.

“A national treasure. Today, we honour Oscar Peterson with a coin that Canadians can find in their change—a quiet celebration for a Canadian change-maker who had a loud and echoing influence. Oscar’s love of music and his lasting legacy is celebrated with this 2022 commemorative circulation coin—a symbolic standing ovation for a Canadian legend who helped shape the Canada we know and love today,” said the Royal Canadian Mint on their Facebook page.

Called “the man with four hands” by jazz great and admirer Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson rose to the top of the music world through more than six decades of electrifying piano performances and unforgettable compositions such as Hymn to Freedom, Blues Etude and The Canadiana Suite.  The coin was unveiled today before family and friends gathered in Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall, a stage well known to Peterson.  It will begin circulating on August 15, to coincide with his birthday.

(CREDIT: Royal Canadian Mint)

The Oscar Peterson commemorative circulation coin was designed by artist Valentine De Landro, an accomplished comic book artist, illustrator, and designer from Ajax, Ontario.  His design features Oscar Peterson at the piano, with his hands in full motion, from which emerges a flowing musical scale showing two closing bars of his famous Hymn to Freedom.  Peterson’s name completes the design.

Born in Montreal in 1925, Peterson is widely regarded as one of the foremost jazz pianists of his generation, winning numerous Juno and Grammy Awards over his 60-year career.

Canadian jazz legend Oscar Peterson performs on the Stravinski hall stage during the 39th Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Keystone, Martial Trezzini

He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame before dying of kidney failure in 2007 at the age of 82.

“Throughout Oscar’s career he received many awards and honours, each of which meant a great deal to him. During the nearly fifteen years since his passing, there have been more. All of them humbling. All of them a source of pride. The addition of this commemorative circulation coin bearing his likeness is something neither he nor I could ever have imagined,” said his widow Kelly Peterson.

“Knowing that Canadians now, and for generations to come, will hold this coin and be reminded of Oscar Peterson or be inspired to learn about him for the first time evokes emotions challenging to describe. I am deeply, profoundly honoured. Oscar was a great pianist and composer. He was a staunch advocate for human rights. Above all, he was always a proud Canadian. As his music is timeless, so too now will he be a part of the Canadian consciousness forever.”

Kelly Peterson, widow of Oscar Peterson, holds up a commemorative $1 coin unveiled in her late husband’s honour Aug. 11, 2022 (CREDIT: Walter Korolewych/CityNews)

“When I was a child traveling the world with my dad, I remember being curious about the figures on each country’s currency. It was an opportunity to learn about the history of where I was visiting. One thing that has always been important to me is that as Canadians, we take the time to explore our history – all aspects of it,” said Céline Peterson.

“Knowing that Canadians at home and anyone who visits from abroad will hold the opportunity to learn about a formidable figure in our nation’s history in the palm of their hand, brings me an immense amount of joy. My dad being given this recognition by the Royal Canadian Mint is something I never would have even thought to imagine because to me, he is and always will be, dad.”

The Oscar Peterson circulation coin is limited to a mintage of three million coins, of which two million feature a purple accent, Oscar Peterson’s favourite colour. It will reach Canadians through their change as bank branches and businesses replenish their inventories of $1 circulation coins.

For more: Royal Canadian Mint

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