Peter Calandra

Peter Calandra's Biography

You may not know the name Peter Calandra, but chances are that you’ve heard his original music, his film or television scores, his sports anthems, or his Broadway performances. This prolific New York City-based composer and keyboard player has been immersed in music for most of his life; he has scored over 50 films, written over 2000 compositions for television broadcast (including over 40 theme packages for nationally broadcast sports shows, the most recent being ESPN’s theme for the Special Olympics World Games and FOX Sports FIFA World Cup Theme, and performed as a musician in the Broadway productions of Miss Saigon (for 10 years), The Lion King, Les Miserables, The Phantom Of The Opera, and Little Shop Of Horrors. Amidst this busy musical life, Calandra has composed, produced, recorded and released six albums of imaginative instrumental music encompassing touches of new age, jazz, contemporary instrumental, classical, and refined pop. His most recent album, First Light, released on September 21, 2015. “I’ve always heard music in my head—there is a radio in there playing new music all the time,” says Calandra.

Growing up, music was always in Calandra’s house. His mother was an amateur musician and nurtured his burgeoning talents. He started his professional career grinding it out in dingy bars playing blues, jazz, reggae, funk and Top 40. Career salvation came the day he was asked to sub in the original Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors; he was eventually hired fulltime and spent 5 years working on the show. “I remember going down to the theater the first time to look at the songbook and I was just blown away. I thought ‘this is the ticket to my future,’” he says. “Eighty percent of my career success comes from getting that show.” Calandra has garnered acclaim for composing music for Jellysmoke, a film which won the Los Angeles Film Festival and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, and Unknown Soldier, a film which won the Los Angeles and Philadelphia Film Festivals and also was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. He’s scored music for every major television network; currently, he has the themes for 15 shows airing on four different networks. In addition to his Broadway resume -- which includes first chair keyboard player positions for many of those productions -- he has also performed with the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra, NY Pops Orchestra, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Susan Anton, Don Cherry, Aretha Franklin, Allen Ginsberg, Annie Golden, Donna McKechnie, Lillianne Montevecchi, and he spent 16 years as the keyboard player in the NYC-based Climax Band, the creative vehicle for artist and musician Larry Rivers. Calandra’s prismatic experience and artistry allows him to authentically inhabit a multitude of genres, conjure up a diverse selection of moods and emotions, and work within a broad array of mediums. “I don’t try to define anything because I find that, as a creative person, when you put something in a box, you limit the creative flow,” Calandra says.

In addition to his keyboard and compositional skills, he is also an accomplished guitarist and multifaceted studio engineer versed in the arts of tracking and mixing. Currently, he’s on the faculty at Queens College, CUNY teaching masters level classes on Audio/MIDI Sequencing, Film Scoring, Composition and Music Technology.

Somehow, Calandra also finds time for personal creativity. His solo albums are wonderfully diverse, spanning world music, Christmas music, world music, contemporary jazz, new age, pop, and classical. The thread throughout is the lyrical expressiveness of the compositions and purity and purposefulness of the musicianship. “My goal is to create music that people love, while also fulfilling my artistic vision. I like painting pictures in sound. It is finding that space where craft and art converge that makes something memorable.”

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Peter Calandra