Edward Callahan

Kalamazoo Central graduate Edward Callahan (2006) is returning to Kalamazoo to perform a free classical piano concert at 5 p.m. April 4 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 120 Roberson St. The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra’s Kids In Tune will also perform.

Callahan lives in New York City where he is a private music teacher and is the music director, pianist, and organist for several churches. 

Callahan attended Kalamazoo Public Schools. His musical influences in school included teachers Rivets Drummer and Daniel Stout. He played drums in marching, pep, and concert bands throughout middle school and high school for both men. 

“They really, really believed in me,” Callahan said. “I was just so excited to have those teachers. I would eat lunch in the band room. I was one of those kids.” 

Outside of school, however, his life revolved around piano. 

From the time he was 5, he knew he wanted to be a concert pianist. He took lessons with pianist Billie Netterwald, who taught him not only piano basics, but “about improvising and how music can change your emotions. She taught me how to connect with the piano. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have gotten into college.” 

After graduating from KC, he enrolled in Western Michigan University, but a chance encounter with one of his musical heroes, conductor and composer Damian Sneed resulted in Callahan leaving WMU. 

For several years, he worked on Broadway and toured Italy with Sneed, before being recruited to attend Nyack College, a Christian college in New York. 

Callahan earned a bachelor’s degree in piano performance in 2018. Last year, he released his first album, “Minor Keys,” which features works by Chopin and Schubert. 

“I fell in love with these composers in college,” Callahan said. “I learned so much about expression by playing their music.” 

He hopes young people will come to the concert. When he was growing up, African American role models in the classical realm were few and far between. He didn’t realize there were other young black musicians with the same aspirations until he competed in the NAACP’s ACT-SO competition and traveled to the national finals. 

“I was finally able to see all of these other kids from all over the country playing Beethoven and Mozart,” he said. “It inspired me to keep going.” 

The concert is being presented by the Kalamazoo Public Library with support from Mt. Zion, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, The Kalamazoo Promise, NAACP ACT-SO, Crescendo Academy of Music, the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival Education Department, the Helen Fox Gospel Music Center, and Kalamazoo Public Schools. The concert is being underwritten by WMUK.