Nestico is best known for his arrangements for the Count Basie orchestra. He has been a professional music arranger since 1941, when he became a staff arranger for American Broadcasting Company radio station WCAE in Pittsburgh at age 17. During his career, he arranged music for the Count Basie Orchestra (1967–1984), the United States Air Force Band (15 yrs) and the United States Marine Band (5 years) both in Washington, District of Columbia. In addition, he played the trombone in the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, and Charlie Barnet.
In 1998-1999 Nestico was a professor at the University of Georgia, teaching commercial orchestration and conducting the Studio Orchestra.
He also directed music programs at Los Angeles Pierce College, Woodland Hills, California, Westinghouse Memorial High School, and Wilmerding, Pennsylvania. During his long career in the television and film industry, he has arranged and conducted projects for artists such as Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan, Toni Tennille, Frank Sinatra, Philosophy Collins, Barbra Streisand, and Count Basie, among others As orchestrator, he has worked on nearly seventy television programs, including Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Charlie"s Angels, and The Mod Squadron
He has also written commercial jingles for Anheuser-Busch, Zenith, Ford Motor Company, Mattel Toys, Pittsburgh Paints, the National Guard, Dodge, Remington Bank, Americard and more. Nestico has published nearly 600 numbers for school groups and many for professional big bands.
He has conducted and recorded his arrangements with several leading European Radio Jazz Orchestras including the British Broadcasting Corporation Big Band in London, Germany"s SWR Big Band and NDR Big Band and the DR Big Band.
The Airmen of Note, the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force, sponsor an annual competition for composers and arrangers of big band music, in honor of Sammy Nestico. Previous winners are:.