Meet Peter Occhiogrosso

Peter Occhiogrosso is an American author of nonfiction books, as well as a coauthor, collaborator, ghostwriter, and journalist who began his writing career in the 1970s as a jazz reviewer and interviewer. Since 1987 his books have focused primarily on spirituality and world religion, although he has also coauthored books by public figures as disparate as talk-show host Larry King, cabaret singer Michael Feinstein, and rock icon Frank Zappa.

 

As his interests expanded from the world of music to encompass spiritual life and practices, Peter wrote a series of books about spiritual experience, including Once A Catholic (Houghton-Mifflin); Through the Labyrinth (Penguin); and a popular guide to the world's religions entitled The Joy of Sects (Doubleday). At the same time, he maintained a parallel career as a coauthor and collaborator, adding to his books with King and Zappa by helping to write Caroline Myss's Why People Don't Heal and Sacred Contracts, both of which became New York Times Best Sellers. He also coauthored five books on prayer and healing with former Catholic priest Ron Roth, PhD. In 2012 he worked with yoga master Mark Whitwell to create The Promise of Love, Sex, and Intimacy (Atria). Following a lifelong interest in nutrition and health, Peter has also collaborated with Vijay Vad, MD, of the Hospital for Special Surgery, on a leading book about arthritis treatment, Arthritis Rx (Gotham), as well as Dr. Vad's latest book, Stop Pain (Hay House). 

 

Occhiogrosso was based in Manhattan when he began writing about jazz for independent publications including Zygote, Changes, Village Voice, Soho Weekly News, Crawdaddy, New Times, and Different Drummer (Rochester, N.Y.), as well as the national jazz magazine Down Beat. For a time he was a correspondent for the British music paper Melody Maker and the Japanese jazz magazine Swing Journal, for which he wrote a lengthy series about the Manhattan loft jazz scene, profiling many of its most prominent players. From 1975 to 1982 he served as Music Editor and Associate Editor of the Soho Weekly News, continuing to write frequently about jazz and helping to develop or give greater exposure to a number of influential music and pop culture journalists, including Tim Page, Roy Trakin, Vivien Goldman, Mick Farren, Steve Bloom, Aaron Fuchs, Stanley Crouch, Pat Wadsley, and Ira Kaplan (who went on to found the popular rock combo Yo La Tengo). After the Soho News closed in 1982, he worked as Associate Editor at Star Hits and contributed features about music, film, and pop culture to Playboy, L’uomo Vogue, Lei, and American Film, among others.

Biography

Occhiogrosso was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up in Bayside and Long Island, before moving to Manhattan in 1966. He lived at 19 East Third Street, close to the burgeoning loft jazz and club scene as well as the future home of CBGB, and just a few blocks from the legendary jazz club Slugs’ in the Far East (1964-1972). Here he was introduced to many of the seminal figures in post-bop and avant-garde jazz, including Ornette Coleman, Max Roach, Jackie McLean, Pharoah Sanders, and Sun Ra, whose Myth Science Arkestra (among other names) was the house band, playing Monday nights “in Natural Nature.”

Education and Early Writing Career

While attending St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens, he was expelled for supportinga landmark faculty strike, and enrolled in New York University, where he was granted a full-tuition scholarship. He majored in English and American Literature; served as editor-in-chief of the school’s literary journal, the Washington Square Review; and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1969. Choosing to forgo post-graduate work, he began writing about his passion for jazz. His first published piece was an interview with Elvin Jones, the legendary drummer with the John Coltrane Quartet, published in 1970 in an independent music publication called Zygote. He also contributed feature articles on the pop music scene in Europe, and interviews with John McLaughlin, Jerry Garcia, and Ornette Coleman. In 1972 he began writing for Changes, published by Sue Graham, contributing features on the Jazz Composer's Orchestra Association, Center for New Music, New Music Distribution Service, and Studio Rivbea; reviews of the Revolutionary Ensemble, Gil Evans, and TV jazz programs. In 1973 he became the jazz record reviewer for New Times, and the following year joined the staff of both the Village Voice and Soho Weekly News as a jazz reviewer. He wrote more than 100 articles reviewing and commenting on the emerging loft jazz scene in Lower Manhattan, and was commissioned to write a four-part series on the loft jazz scene by Kiyoshi Koyama, editor of the Japanese jazz magazine Swing Journal. In 1980 and 1981 his articles and interviews with Yoko Ono were internationally syndicated by the New York Times News Service. 

 

Later Career

 

Starting in September 1976, Occhiogrosso co-produced a series of records for India Navigation Co., an independent label based in Nyack, N.Y. Albums produced included David Murray, “Flowers for Albert”;  Hamiet Bluiett, “Endangered Species”; Chico Freeman, “Chico”; Leroy Jenkins, “Solo Concert”; and Arthur Blythe, “The Starting in September 1976, Occhiogrosso co-produced a series of records for India Navigation Co., an independent label based in Nyack, N.Y. Albums produced included David Murray, Flowers for Albert; Hamiet Bluiett, Endangered Species; Chico Freeman, Chico; Leroy Jenkins, Solo Concert; and Arthur Blythe, The Grip. In 1982, Occhiogrosso worked as a field producer and interviewer for Videowest of San Francisco, producing videotaped location segments that included interviews with Jerry Wexler; The Clash; Pink Floyd; Robin Williams; Genesis; Tommy Tune; Richard Hell; Mary Beth Hurt. Segments were broadcast on MTV (Warner-Amex Music Television) and Night Flight (USA). In November 1982, his original drama, Golden Girl, opened at Theater for the New City, directed by Ron Link. In the mid-1980s, Occhiogrosso began writing books, starting with Inside Spinal Tap (Arbor House, 1984), and coauthored books with Larry King and Frank Zappa. He turned his attention to spiritual subjects following his initiation into the American group Eckankar, where he learned to practice intensive dream work. That started him on a trail of spiritual exploration that led to the study of Tibetan Buddhism, Sufism, Zen, Kabbalah, and many years of practice with the Chinese qigong master Kwan Saihung. Three of the books Peter coauthored became New York Times Best Sellers.

 

Teaching Experience

 

In 2003, following the success of Caroline Myss’s book Sacred Contracts, which rose to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list and had an Amazon Sales ranking of #1, Caroline and Peter worked together on creating a teaching program around the book, which he helped to write. The CMED Institute, based in the Chicago area, offered a two-year program consisting of six three-day workshops, at which Peter taught Sacred Journaling and worked onstage with Caroline and fellow faculty members Jim Curtan and renowned astrologer Lynn Bell. Caroline and Peter also created a deck of “Archetype Cards” to be used at the workshops, along with a “Journal of Inner Dialogue,” both published by Hay House and still available online. Peter taught at all CMED workshops through 2009. 

 

He now teaches an online class in “Sacred Journaling” through Writers.com.  Based on his many years of writing for newspapers and magazines, he also teaches the online class “Writing for Print & Digital Magazines.” Peter offers services as a writing coach and developmental editor. 

 

Upcoming Projects

 

Peter has written an account of his tumultuous years in the music world of Downtown Manhattan, entitled Groovin’ at Slugs’.  He is also developing a full-length manuscript for a book entitled Sacred Journaling: A Path to Inner Knowledge , based on his many years of teachings journaling at CMED and through his online class.

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