Kevin Callahan (guitarist)

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Kevin Callahan is an American composer, educator and guitarist from Seattle, Washington.

Early life

Kevin Callahan began playing guitar at the age of 12, growing up in the small New England town of Reading, Massachusetts, a few miles outside of Boston, Massachusetts. His parents, while not musicians, loved music and exposed him to everything from opera to jazz. His first guitar lessons were with Charlie Chiarenza, a Sicilian violinist and jazz bassist. Charlie required that Kevin start with a month of Solfeggi before beginning lessons with Chiarenza. Some of Callahan's first lessons covered the music of The Ventures, George Barnes and Bucky Pizzarelli. While taking lessons with Charlie Chiarenza, Kevin was fortunate to meet Joe Venuti .[1]

A year later, Callahan began his sophomore year in high school, and due to schoolwork and various sports, including cross country running and track and field, stopped taking music lessons. While in high school, Callahan played folk rock and was influenced by listening to Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, The Beatles and Neil Young.[1]


As a freshman in Dartmouth College Kevin Callahan pursued a major in chemistry to become a physician. Prior to enrollment for a major, he took a course on music theory, but discovered that he needed to have training in classical music first. Eventually, a roommate of his convinced him to take the classical music course, which then turned into an eight-week course on music theory. After the course, he took a year off, during which he formed a duo with Neil, a clarinetist, and together as a 17-year-old musicians they had played guitar and clarinet in Hanover.[1]

During the same year, Callahan began to attend a seminar on John Coltrane which was hosted by Professor Bill Cole. This seminar, had changed Kevin's life, because Cole gave him transcripts of Coltrane's solos. Later on, Callahan had started transcribing other musicians, which include Jeff Beck and Deep Purple, Larry Carlton, Steve Morse, Sonny Stitt, and Art Tatum. When he became a senior, he joined Naughty Zoot, an all-instrumental band, with which he did gigs by Pat Metheny, Weather Report, Jeff Beck, Charlie Parker and Dixie Dregs as well as writing some compositions of their own in a style of bebop and rock. He also studied common practice period with Thomas McGah, a head of the composition department at the Berklee School of Music. Despite his love for music, particularly jazz, he ended up with a B.A. in English and environmental studies.[1]

After graduating, and spending some time on the West Coast of the United States he bought a classical guitar by the age of 25. He took nine months of intense lessons of playing Jeff Beck's Constipated Duck and Bach's Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E-flat major, BWV 998. During those times, due to his injury, his interest was switching from music to programming on Macs and back. With arrival of such technologies as iPhone and iPod Touch Kevin became hooked, and created an app, via iOS SDK, on music theory.[1]


Callahan began his career when he met Badi Assad, who asked him to turn her song into a ballad for her upcoming album Rhythms. He eventually met with Sérgio Assad and his brother Odair at Cooper's Tavern. Odair was impressed by Kevin's composition for "Alki Guitar Trio", which was initially written by Magali Rischette, Adrien Brogna and Hughes Kolp. During the time at the tavern, while he and Odair were sitting down and drinking wine, Callahan had an idea of creating a piece that he would later call The Red Fantasy. That piece is about variations of red wines, which includes Amarone, Barbera, Beaujolais nouveau, Malbec, Syrah and Tempranillo.[1]

In 2011, Odair Assad played Kevin Callahan's The Red Fantasy at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[2]

In 2017 Callahan had composed The Possessed, which was later performed by Russian guitarist Artyom Dervoed.[3]

In 2019, the New York City Guitar Orchestra performed one of Callahan's compositions at Carnegie Hall.[4]