During the day, Pete Cannarozzi can be found working in William Paterson University’s Hamilton Hall. A media technician with the Instructional and Research Technology team for the past 16 years, he provides classroom support for courses that require audio and/or video recordings of student presentations, handles tech hosting for large virtual meetings and trainings on Zoom, and serves as cameraman and production assistant for big events such as commencement.
At night, Cannarozzi can be found working in section 125 of the Prudential Center in Newark.
As the organist for the New Jersey Devils pro-hockey team—a post he’s held for 22 seasons— Cannarozzi energizes fans and players alike with his in-game music, and provides a sort-of mini-concert in the arena for 45 minutes before each game starts.
Cannarozzi has become a fixture with the National Hockey League (NHL) franchise, featured in New Jersey Devils ads, serving as a guest on NHL and Devils podcasts, hosting the popular “Name That Tune with Pete” segment during Devils home games, and, most of all, interacting with fans in the arena, many who make song requests and ask to take photos with him and the organ.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Cannarozzi says of landing the rare job as a pro-sports organist. Before William Paterson, Cannarozzi was a fulltime studio musician in New York City, playing keyboard for films, commercials, recording artists’ albums, broadcast network jingles, and so on. “I was on a break with the studio manager when a mutual friend we had played music with for NBC Sports called him to ask if he knew of any organists. The manager said, ‘Yeah, Pete’s right here.’”
“I had never played hockey organ ever. I had to learn quickly,” Cannarozzi says with a chuckle.
He connected with other pro-sports organists, thanks to their own Facebook group, and started building his knowledge base and skills. “I had to learn what to play, when to play it, and be able play it at a moment’s notice,” Cannarozzi explains, noting how hockey organists can only play when a referee blows the whistle and the game stops, or after a goal is scored. “Only the crowd can make noise during the game.”
He wears a headset behind the organ and listens for the team’s production director who cues lights, Jumbotron graphics, an announcer, a DJ, and Cannarozzi. “He’ll say, ‘Okay, Pete, go ahead,’ and I have to play. Just like that. It’s not as much about musicianship as it is about knowing what to play and when,” he says. After a penalty whistle, for one, Cannarozzi might play Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.” His favorite song to play—speaking both as an organist and hockey fan—is the organ fanfare that comes after the announcer calls out the Devils player who just scored a goal.
“It’s a cliché, but: It’s a dream job. I get to watch hockey—with a team that’s really great. I get to watch hockey and, once in a while, I play the organ,” says Cannarozzi, a Chicago native who grew up watching the Chicago Blackhawks with his dad. “But now, I’m a Devils fan,” he says without hesitation.
A sign on the door to his workspace in Hamilton Hall bears the New Jersey Devils logo on it. Cannarozzi enjoys when students ask about the Devils logo and start talking hockey with him. He’s also particularly enjoyed recording student presentations that happened to be about hockey, as it opened the door for Cannarozzi to tell those students about his job with the NHL. “It’s nice that I get to interact with students even though I’m not a teacher,” he says.
“I really like the connection of dots between me working at William Paterson and me working for the Devils,” Cannarozzi continues. He often gives his season Devils tickets to WP students, faculty, and staff and loves when they visit him in the Prudential Center at the organ. He also loves watching students graduate during the full-circle moment that comes when he works the University’s undergraduate commencement ceremony—at the Prudential Center.
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