“Make a sound, put it in rhythm, and stay out of the way.”
These were the words of my beloved piano teacher, Sophia Rosoff, who urged me to have the courage to “make a mess” and to pursue emotional engagement and honesty above all else – in whatever music I make. She inspired me to invest completely in music’s underlying emotional rhythm, always striving to make an honest musical statement.
I grew up playing classical, jazz, rock, pop, and theater music. The musical gods in my pantheon are an eclectic bunch, and their music is all deeply personal, ranging from the gritty to the sublime. The music that I compose and perform draws from all of these rich inspirations.
I believe it’s essential to create personally-resonant musical experiences that have the potential to deepen our engagement with one another. I want to connect – viscerally, emotionally – with the people who are kind enough to give me their focused attention for a few minutes. I want to write music that moves people.
Gregg Kallor is a composer and pianist whose music fuses the classical and jazz traditions he loves into a new, deeply personal language. Opera News calls Kallor "a rising star in the music world" with "a singular compositional voice." The New York Times writes: "At home in both jazz and classical forms, [Kallor] writes music of unaffected emotional directness. Leavened with flashes of oddball humor, his works succeed in drawing in the listener - not as consumer or worshipful celebrant, but in a spirit of easygoing camaraderie." In 2018, Kallor was named the Classical Recording Foundation's Composer of the Year for the second consecutive year.
In October 2018, The Angel's Share and On Site Opera presented the world premiere of Kallor's new suite of operatic sketches based on the monster's harrowing tale from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in the Catacombs at the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY, as well as the premiere of a solo piano tribute to Leonard Bernstein (a permanent Green-Wood resident), and a reprise of Kallor's acclaimed setting of Edgar Allan Poe's chilling story, The Tell-Tale Heart, with mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, baritone Joshua Jeremiah, tenor Brian Cheney, and cellist Joshua Roman, directed by Sarah Meyers. Opera News wrote: "Kallor achieved a perfect balance of text and music... a most interesting synthesis of elements of classical and jazz, galvanized into a singular compositional voice. There is plenty of heartfelt lyricism in his music, yet also enough complexity to keep it intriguing for those of us who seek more... a grand tour de force for both singer and ensemble." The production was included as one of the Most Memorable Concerts of 2018 by WQXR and OperaWire.
These performances coincided with the release of Kallor's new album, The Tell-Tale Heart, the premiere recording of Kallor's musical ghost story, performed by the composer with soprano Melody Moore and cellist Joshua Roman, recorded by GRAMMY®-winning producer Adam Abeshouse. A celebration of music and literature, the album also features the first recording of Kallor's eleven new song-settings of poems by Sara Teasdale, Elinor Wylie, Stephen Crane, Mark Twain, William Butler Yeats, as well as the phenomenal young poet, Clementine Von Radics. Opera News writes, “Kallor is a true craftsman of American art song... If The Tell-Tale Heart wasn't proof enough, these songs show that he excels as a miniaturist, creating vivid worlds and characters in mere minutes.”
Recent projects include Mouthful of Forevers, Kallor's work for string orchestra commissioned by Town Hall Seattle, premiered by the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Joshua Roman; and Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow, a tribute to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. for piano and string quartet, commissioned by The Classical Recording Foundation and funded by a gift from Stuart and Linda Nelson, which Kallor premiered with the Attacca Quartet.
Kallor is the inaugural Composer-In-Residence at SubCulture in New York City, where he has collaborated with artists encompassing a wide spectrum of musical flavors - including instrumentalists Joshua Roman, Miranda Cuckson, Joel Frahm, Alan Hampton, Ben Wittman, Claire Jensen, Chris Van Voorst Van Beest, and Laura Metcalf; singers Melody Moore, Adriana Zabala, Matthew Worth, Jo Lawry, Laila Biali, Kate McGarry, Peter and Eldridge; tap dancer Andrew Nemr; beat-boxer Mark Martin; and more. Kallor has premiered chamber music, vocal music, and a solo piano suite at SubCulture.
Kallor's solo recording, A Single Noon, is a musical tableau of life in New York City that evokes moments of caffeinated bliss, embarrassing subway mishaps, and the buzzing energy of a city driven by dynamic, thoughtful, talented, and slightly crazy people. Pianist/composer Fred Hersch calls A Single Noon "the work of an extraordinary pianist, a composer of great distinction and a true conceptualist... This ambitious and unique suite takes us somewhere that is very deeply heartfelt and dazzlingly executed. This is 21st-century music that has clearly absorbed the past and looks to a bright and borderless musical future." Kallor premiered A Single Noon at Carnegie Hall in 2011.
Kallor's previous song album, Exhilaration - Dickinson and Yeats Songs, features his settings of poems by Emily Dickinson, William Butler Yeats, and Christina Rossetti sung by mezzo-soprano Adriana Zabala. Opera News wrote: "Kallor knows how to make these words sing, and Zabala gives perfect flight to them."
Kallor joined an all-star roster of musicians, including Joyce DiDonato, Yo-Yo Ma, Jamie Barton, Sasha Cooke, Isabel Leonard, Susanna Phillips, Sean Pannikar, Anthony McGill, actors Sharon Stone and Ansel Elgort, and many more, for An AIDS Quilt Songbook: Sing for Hope. Kallor recorded two songs for the album, with Melody Moore - "One Child," which Kallor composed for this project - and Matthew Polezani. All profits from the sale of this album will go to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.
Kallor's music videos are "a visual feast for the eyes," writes Feast of Music: "Espresso Nirvana" (think caffeinated hijinks) and "Broken Sentences," which features 88 artist-designed pianos that Sing For Hope temporarily placed in public spaces around NYC, where anyone could play them. Gregg did. A lot.
The Abby Whiteside Foundation presented Kallor's Carnegie Hall debut in Weill Recital Hall in 2007. Harris Goldsmith wrote: "It took but a few impeccably shaped phrases to make it plain that Kallor is a formidably well-trained technician and a master of stylish proportion as well... This superb recital debut truly established a new, important voice in our musical annals."
Kallor (pronounced "KAY-ler") was born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in West Hartford, Connecticut. He began improvising on the piano in his home as soon as he could walk over to it, began taking classical piano lessons when he was six, and added jazz lessons a few years later. He graduated from Tufts University with a degree in American Studies.