Famed former Great Neck musician Edward Kalendar dies at 80

Famed former Great Neck musician Edward Kalendar dies at 80
Edward Kalendar portrait. (Photo courtesy of the Kalendar family)

Edward Kalendar, a world-renowned musician and composer who lived and taught music in Great Neck, died on June 11 at the age of 80.

Kalendar, one of the Soviet Union’s underground jazz pioneers during the 1950s, spent his early years in Ukraine before he was musically trained at the Tashkent and Moscow Conservatories. A pianist and composer, Kalendar studied famed composers Albert Malakhov, Boris Zeidman and Aram Khachaturian.

During his studies, the Tashkent Conservatory’s dean warned him that aspiring to promote a genre from the Western world in the Soviet Union could be detrimental for his future. Despite this, Kalendar continued to lead an underground jazz big band for another six years.

Following his musical education at the conservatory, Kalendar served as the conductor of the Tashkent Radio Orchestra from 1968-76, making regular appearances as a guest conductor for the orchestra for nearly 20 more years. Kalendar was also the music director of Moscow’s Music Forklore Theater from 1991-94, gaining more and more popularity as his music began to circulate throughout the Soviet Union and other parts of the continent.

In 1994, Kalendar and his wife Asya moved to New York, where he would perform at Alice Tully Hall and Rockefeller Center as well as the Kremlin Palace Concert Hall and many others venues. A year later, Kalendar met Regina Gil, the founder and executive director for the Great Neck Arts Center (now the Gold Coast Arts Center). Gil said the arts center had just opened its doors to the public that year and that after hearing Kalendar play the piano, she decided to make him and his wife the center’s first two music teachers.

“Edward and his wife Asya came to Great Neck, played on the piano in my home, and brought me to the realization that I was hearing a genius musician and we needed to do what we could to help him rebuild his life and career,” Gil said in a statement. “We welcomed Edward and his wife to teach at the Arts Center, our first music teachers, as he made contact with those musicians and others in the U.S. who would go on to become important to him in giving him the performance space and support that he needed to perform and compose.”

Many of Kalendar’s students went on to receive degrees from accredited schools such as the Oberlin Conservatory, The Julliard School, Mannes School of Music, the Jerusalem Academy of Music, Princeton University, Harvard University and others.

Kalendar’s arrangements have been performed internationally by the Youth Chamber Orchestra at Temple University, the Royal Swedish Opera Orchestra, the Lopes Latin Jazz Group, the Bacchanalia Chamber Orchestra and the Manhattan Symphonie Orchestra.

“Even after he achieved the recognition in this country that he had known in the USSR, [Kalendar] continued to teach his advanced students at the arts center,” Gil said. “He was remarkable in his loyalty to them and to us.”

Kalendar, who ended up moving to Philadelphia, was a member of the American Society of Composers and Publishers. A former student of Kalendar’s, Matthew Merker, lauded his vast knowledge about music theory.

“Mr. Kalendar amazed me with his technical expertise, knowledge of music theory, and his warm personality,” Merker said. “He opened a new door in my musical career, and showed me how classical music is essential for understanding and performing jazz.”

Kalendar is survived by his wife Asya, his daughter Elina Picht, his son-in-law Aaron Picht and his grandson Sebastian Picht.

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  1. I’m so sad to hear this news. My name is Betsi Rosen, Carole Thaler’s sister. My sister adored Edward and thoroughly enjoyed working with Him in Great Neck collaborating on writing songs and music together. He was a very kind and extremely talented man.


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