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Ray Callender was born in Winfield, Illinois. The son of
Charles Callender, a
Chicago trumpeter and craftsman at Schilke Music Products,
his love for the
instrument began at an early age. However, his love for the
develop until early high school, sparked by a double-sided
Kind of Blue and Jazz at Massey Hall. He was hooked.
Callender began to
study the masters, especially Freddie Hubbard, Clifford
Brown, Miles Davis,
and Woody Shaw, and his diligence earned him numerous
honors while still in
high school, including “Best Soloist” at the Chicago Area Jazz
“Outstanding Soloist” at the Rolling Meadows Jazz Festival,
and the 1996
Louis Armstrong Jazz Award. Callender graduated Cum
Laude from the University of North Florida jazz program
he studied with legendary
alto saxophonist Bunky Green. He performed with and
composed for the top
jazz ensemble and combo and was the featured trumpet
soloist on UNF's
Down Beat award-winning albums, Things To Come, Second
Through His Eyes, as well as recording with notable
pianist/educator Dr. Keith
Javors on his 2004 Zoho Records release, Mo'
In 2003, after winning an audition amongst thousands of emerging jazz artists from all around the globe, Callender was selected by jazz legend Curtis Fuller as a Jazz Star of Tomorrow. As a result, he performed in Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead Program at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. where he worked with esteemed artists including Fuller, Winard Harper, Carmen Lundy, Jimmy Owens, and John Clayton. He was also one of only four trumpeters nationwide selected to attend a summer residency at the Steans Institute Program for Jazz at Ravinia, where he had the opportunity to work with such venerable mentors as Dr. David Baker, James Moody, Rufus Reid, Danilo Perez, and Nathan Davis as well as perform with up and coming players like Aaron Parks, Kim Thompson, and Maurice Brown. In addition, he was recognized twice by Down Beat magazine for Best Collegiate Jazz Combo (2002-2003).
Callender has performed in concert with such artists as Dave Brubeck, Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Slide Hampton, Jon Faddis, James Moody, Antonio Hart, Benny Green, Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Billy Childs, Pat Martino, Snarky Puppy, Maurice Hines, Eddie Palmieri, Conrad Herwig, Dennis Mackrel, Percy Heath, Doug Carn, Ben Tucker, Calvin Newborn, Michael Carvin, Delbert Felix, Steve Nelson, John Lee, Billy Kilson, Ignacio Berroa, Albert Tootie Heath, Bobby Shew, Marcus Printup, the Ritz Jazz Orchestra, the St. Johns River City Band, Bruce Paulson, and Bob Mintzer. Groups featuring Callender have performed at such venues as the Montreux Jazz Festival, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Vienne Jazz Festival, the Savannah Jazz Festival, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, the Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, the Velvet Lounge, the International Association of Jazz Educators conference, the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, and the Notre Dame Jazz Festival. Callender has held faculty positions at Florida State College and Duval County Public Schools and currently teaches at the Morris Music Academy and the Friese Studio of Music as well as performing regularly throughout the Southeast.