Pete earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Denver, at the same time honing his jazz chops by sitting in with local greats like Ron Miles, Stefan Karlsson, Bruno Carr, Keith Oxman, and others. He also played 4th tenor sax in the area's top working big band, the Denver Jazz Orchestra, where he was able to hang out with and learn from old-school greats like Homer Brown. "Homer came out of the direct lineage of Lester Young: he was a protégé of Lester's; they used to call him 'Little Pres' because he sounded so much like him. Being able to sit next to guys like that in the band and learn from them was like getting as close to the source as possible." Pete also studied from Marvin Blackman, another ex-New Yorker hard bop player, who had spent time playing with Thelonius Monk and Rashied Ali back in the early days of the avant-garde movement, and from Art Bouton, a top-call studio and show musician in the area. During this time he also was gaining professional experience as a member of a local alternative-funk band, Lord Groovy and the Psychedelic Zombiez. That turned out to be a very important opportunity - during his 2-year stint with the band, they were the opening act for several well-known touring acts including Primus, Widespread Panic, Spin Doctors, Mr Bungle, and the Wallflowers.