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Alumni Profile

Peter Nocella:  Making Beautiful Music
From Temple Magazine, Fall 2011

When Peter Nocella, MUS ’74, ’79, composed his doctoral dissertation, his circumstances were not that of the typical doctoral candidate. Nocella’s score was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Ballet, which meant he had to face both Temple’s doctoral committee and a critic from The New York Times. Fortunately for Nocella—now a celebrated composer, violist and conductor—the Times reviewed his composition favorably, and the doctoral committee approved his dissertation.

Since receiving his master’s and doctoral degrees from the Boyer College of Music and Dance—then called the College of Music— Nocella has performed with such ensembles as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Ballet Company, the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Lyric Opera Company. Furthermore, he has traveled the world with musical artists such as Frank Sinatra, Burt Bacharach, Smokey Robinson and others.

As a composer, Nocella has received numerous commissions from organizations including the American Ballet Theater, the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Ballet, the Malmo Opera and Music Theater in Sweden, the Milwaukee Ballet and the Philadelphia Composers’ Alliance.

Nocella credits his success to the skills and knowledge he acquired while at Temple.

“When it came time to pursue my advanced degrees,” Nocella recalls, “I chose Temple because it had a thriving and developing music program, thanks in part to its faculty and to the leadership of [former dean of the College of Music] David Stone.” Studying at the helm of such well-known musicians as Leonard Mogill, then associate principal violist in the Philadelphia Orchestra, Nocella was able to fine-tune his craft by infusing it with research and theory.

Currently, when he is not teaching fledgling musicians as a senior lecturer at Penn State University and Nazareth Academy high school, Nocella continues to perform and tour, most recently with the Meiravi String Quartet.

Nocella also is gratified by helping other musicians. In 1998, he was instrumental in establishing a memorial scholarship for Mogill, which aimed to support viola students at Temple. In order to drum up support for the scholarship, he organized and conducted a benefit concert in Rock Hall on Main Campus.

More recently, Nocella has established the Nocella Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports classical and jazz performance and creation, music education and music scholarships. 

“I can see that school music programs are suffering because of lack of funds and interest,” he says. He hopes to enliven students’ interest in classical and jazz performances. 

“Music is so important to the overall learning experience,” Nocella says. “One’s immersion in music can make him or her a better person and a more productive member of society.”

—Erin James