Kevin Callahan (born November 10, 1958) is an American guitarist and composer.
Kevin Callahan began playing guitar at the age of 12 growing up in the small New England town of Reading, Massachusetts, just a few miles outside of Boston. 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 actually picking up the instrument. Within a few months, he was playing the Brazilian hit “Tico Tico” and tunes by The Ventures. At age 13, he was introduced to jazz greats George Barnes and Bucky Pizzarelli. One evening, Charlie brought Kevin to a jazz club to meet the world-renowned jazz violinist Joe Venuti. Venuti took great interest in explaining to Kevin how he improvised over a written melody while sight-reading.
As a sophomore at Austin Preparatory High School, and due to schoolwork and sports, Kevin stopped taking lessons, but continued to play the music of singer-songwriters and artists Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, The Beatles, Neil Young and others with schoolmates Matthew Evangelista and Joe Coneeny.
In 1976, Callahan had the fastest high school indoor mile time in New England. In 1980, Kevin was a New England and Eastern United States kata champion in karate.
In 1976, as a freshman at Dartmouth College, and while planning on becoming a physician, Kevin Callahan pursued English literature alongside a major in chemistry. His evenings were often spent performing in local clubs on guitar and vocals with clarinetist Peter Silsbee. It was at this time that he began to study the music and lives of John Coltrane and Miles Davis under the tutelage of music professor and author Bill Cole. Cole opened his eyes to thinking about music in a way that has forever remained.
In 1977, Callahan took a year off from Dartmouth to become a certified Solar Energy Heat Installation Design Technician while also working at the Massachusetts State House on Energy Conservation. While working on energy legislation during the day, he studied composition at night taking private lessons with Thomas McGah, head of the composition department at Berklee College of Music. McGah took him deep into Common Practice Harmony and Counterpoint.
When Kevin returned to Dartmouth, he helped found the fusion group “Naughty Zoot” with band members Richard O’Meara on bass, Clay Cafiero on keyboards and synth, and Hank Dearden on drums. Naughty Zoot, an all-instrumental band, performed music by Pat Metheny, Weather Report, Jeff Beck, Charlie Parker, the Dixie Dregs and others. Band members also wrote their own compositions in the styles of bebop and rock.
Callahan earned a degree in English Literature while continuing his studies in solar engineering, computer programming and environmental studies.
After graduating, and moving from Boston to Seattle in 1983, Kevin was inspired by classical guitar and began a nine-month intensive study of the instrument with Gary Bissiri, a masterful guitarist who taught him about tone production and classical guitar technique. Kevin and Gary eventually collaborated on writing music software and remain great friends to this day.
While Callahan continued to play jazz and fusion in the early 80’s, he eventually focused his energies on classical music. In 1990, he developed a close friendship with the Grammy Award winning duo, Sergio and Odair Assad. The brothers strongly encouraged him to compose for classical guitar. Callahan’s first piece was “The River Bed”, the middle movement from the suite “Three River Moments”published by Henry Lemoine Editions. Over the years, Kevin’s compositions for guitar, such as “The Red Fantasy” (written for and premiered by Odair Assad on his “El Caminante” CD by GHA Records) and published by Doberman Editions, appear regularly in international guitar competitions and festivals. Kevin Callahan has composed for many artists including Odair Assad, Irina Kulikova, Elizabeth CD Brown, Artyom Dervoed, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, the Alki Guitar Trio, Badi Assad, the Aaron Shearer Foundation and others. In the summer 2017 issue of Classical Guitar Magazine, Grammy Award winner Sergio Assad chose Kevin’s composition, “The Possessed”, written for Artyom Dervoed, as one of the top five pieces every guitarist should be playing. His most recent compositions include “Three White Geese”, a commission by the Aaron Shearer Foundation for 40 guitars plus electric bass written to commemorate Aaron Shearer’s birth and world-premiered at Carnegie Hall June, 23, 2019, and “Alki Point” for the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, premiered July 12, 2019 in Saltillo, Mexico, "The Whisky Tales" commissioned by Stephanie Jones, "Moving Pictures" commissioned by Irina Kulikova, "The Myth of Persephone"with Xavier Jara as soloist, Laura Boswell and Lexi McGraw on vocals, Brandon Walker on bass, commissioned by Aaron Shearer Foundation and the United States Guitar Orchestra conducted by Kami Rowan.
Kevin is also one of the Northwest’s most highly regarded music instructors whose roster has included many of the region’s top professionals, from classical guitar competition winners to rock stars Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, Roger Fisher of Heart, Skyler Skjelset of the Fleet Foxes. A multi-dimensional musician with skills in numerous styles including classical, jazz, rock, fusion, blues, pop and folk, Kevin has performed or recorded with groups ranging from the Seattle Symphony to Grammy nominated Dave Koz, Seattle Guitar Quartet, Seattle Guitar Trio, Arnold McCuller of the James Taylor Band, Greg Adams of Tower of Power, Roger Fisher of Heart, Clarice Assad, the Assad Brothers,and more.
As a much sought after producer and engineer with more than 30 CDs to his name, Callahan received an engineering award from the National Association of Independent Record Producers (N.A. I. R. D.) for producing Hilary Field’s debut CD, the “Music of Spain & Latin America”.
In addition to a career in music, Kevin Callahan worked as a software engineer for iCat and Intel. He also created an Objective-C code generator to help developers write software for macOS and iOS.
Published Compositions for Classical Guitar
“Three River Moments” 2000 Henry Lemoine Editions
“Suite Seattle” 2005 Doberman Editions
“The Fourth Stream” 2005 Doberman Editions
“The Red Fantasy” 2010 Doberman Editions
“Old Friend” 2012 Yesler Way Music
“Songs for Lotty” 2012 Yesler Way Music
“The Possessed” 2015 Yesler Way Music
“Three White Geese” 2020 Yesler Way Music
“Alki Point” 2020 Yesler Way Music
"The Whisky Tales" 2022 Yesler Way Music
"Moving Pictures" 2023 Yesler Way Music
"The Myth of Persephone" Yesler Way Music