Edward Kalendar, a renowned pianist and composer who was also the first music instructor to teach classes at the Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck died on June 11 at his home in Philadelphia. His death was a result of complications from hip surgery.
"He was the kindest, most genuine person I knew, with the emotional life of an enchanted 8-year-old. Everything inspired him, be that a new work of architecture, a botanical garden, or the latest scientific discovery," said his daughter, Elina Picht of Philadelphia. "He loved people and people loved him back by thousands."
Kalendar, who was 80, and grew up in Lvov, Ukraine, studied music at the Tashkent and Moscow Conservatories. Though classically trained, he became passionate about jazz and began memorizing performances of the genre broadcast on the "Voice of America" radio program. While still a student in 1964, he formed a jazz band, an action that was met with disapproval by the dean of the conservatory. Though jazz was "considered bourgeois" in the Soviet Union, Picht said, Kalendar led the band for six years, and he became leading figure in the jazz world.
He also served as conductor of the Tashkent Radio Orchestra from 1968 to 1976 and was the music director of the Music Folklore Theater in Moscow from 1991 to 1994. At the same time he established himself as a successful songwriter and composer, who worked on 27 film scores for both documentaries and features.
He moved with his family to New York in 1994, where they settled in Great Neck and remained until a few years ago before moving to Philadelphia to be near Picht and her family. An introduction by cellist — and future son-in-law — Aaron Picht led to Kalendar and his wife joining the music department at Gold Coast Arts Center.
"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," said Regina Gil, executive director of Gold Coast Arts Center in a statement.
His career was not only rebuilt but taken to an entirely new level as he taught a number of advanced students and performed at a number of prestigious venues including the United Nations, Alice Tully Hall, The Rainbow Room, Tilles Center and Rockefeller Center. He also appeared with a number of prominent music figures, including Victor Borge, Chris Brubeck and the New York Big Band with Joe Battaglia.
One particularly memorable experience was appearing on a television program with Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan. "My dad was asked to accompany Indian songs for him on the piano, by ear," Kalendar's daughter recalled. "Bachchan had a great time, and so did my dad, and at the end of the recording Bachchan marveled 'Piano isn't an ethnic Indian instrument. How did you make it sound like one?' I personally never met anyone with this degree of musical versatility."
In addition to his wife, daughter and son-in-law, Kalendar is survived by a grandson, Sebastian Picht.