Edward Kalendar spent his early years in Lvov, Ukraine. It was there, at the age of eight, that he heard jazz music for the first time. The appreciation and performance of jazz in the Soviet Union in the 1950s was considered to be an unpatriotic activity. Despite official disapproval, Kalendar nurtured his love for the genre by memorizing jazz performances from late night “Voice of America” radio broadcasts. He received his musical training at the Tashkent and Moscow Conservatories, where he studied classical composition under Albert Malakhov, Boris Zeidman and Aram Khachaturian. Kalendar also participated in a seminar conducted by Pierre Boulez during his residency at The Moscow Conservatory in 1990.
During his conservatory years, Kalendar dreamed of a time when playing jazz publicly would be accepted in the Soviet Union. He formed and conducted an underground big band made up of fellow jazz enthusiasts. At one point, the Dean of the Conservatory warned him that “practicing a western genre alien to Soviet youth” might have a negative impact on his musical future. Edward continued to lead the band clandestinely for another six years.
The Soviet government began to relax its attitude towards jazz music in 1970. Kalendar proceeded to introduce jazz to the public and to young musicians through his inspired teaching and numerous performances at newly organized jazz festivals.