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 music didn’t develop until early high school, sparked by a double-sided tape of 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 Festival, “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 where 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 Thoughts, and Through His Eyes, as well as recording with notable pianist/educator Dr. Keith Javors on his 2004 Zoho Records release, Mo’ City Jungle.
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, Maurice Hines, Eddie Palmieri, Conrad Herwig, Dennis Mackrel, Percy Heath, Doug Carn, Steve Nelson, John Lee, Billy Kilson, Ignacio Berroa, Albert “Tootie” Heath, Bobby Shew, 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 numerous private schools as well as performing regularly throughout the Southeast.