José “Peppie” Calvar uses passion for music to influence SU community

José "Peppie" Calvar uses passion for music to influence SU community

Through projects like "Voces en Exilio" and Holiday at Hendricks, Calvar channels his passion for music into events students can learn from and enjoy.
Published: November 30, 2018
José “Peppie” Calvar has organized a number of events for the SU community to help promote more unity through music.

In 2018, it seems as if the number of people who listen to classical music is decreasing, while those who listen to genres like rap, hip-hop or even trap are now labeled as the modern fan base. However, a growing community of people at Syracuse University celebrates a different side of classical music through the melodies of José “Peppie” Calvar.

As an assistant professor and Choral Activities assistant director at the Setnor School of Music, Calvar is among those who are still in love with the classical music genre and believes that all genres of music can unite the world.

“Music can achieve world domination,” Calvar said, sarcastically.

On a sincere note, Calvar expressed genuine appreciation for all music genres.

“I don’t have a favorite (music genre),” Calvar said. “I have a least favorite … I don’t enjoy country or western music.”

Born in Miami and raised by his Cuban parents in Charlotte, N.C., Calvar began his freshman year at North Carolina State University as an engineering major and after only six weeks he decided to pursue music education.

Calvar continued that pursuit East Carolina University and Georgia State University, eventually earning a Doctoral of Musical Arts (DMA) in choral conducting from the University of South Carolina.

The 37-year-old musician who fell in love with music when he was just five-years-old said he now revels in the joy of sharing this love with his students.

“My goal is to be as much as of a server to my students as possible and to bring them as far as I can, to be of service to this institution and to be the best that I can be to those who need me most,” Calvar said.

One of Calvar’s recent projects was for La Casita Cultural Center‘s “Voces en Exilio” event, which commemorated the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico in 2017.

“I admire him and respect him so much, for me it was an honor that Peppie proposed us to do this event,” Tere Paniagua, executive director of the Office of Cultural Engagement for the Hispanic Community, said. “Working with him has been a great experience.”

For Voces en Exilio, Calvar composed and wrote the lyrics of the song “Kyrie Eleison” with the assistance of his wife, Carmen Maria Morales de Calvar, in commemoration of the displaced victims of the natural disaster.

Translated as “Lord have mercy,” this song is typically used as an invocation in the Roman Catholic Church. Calvar incorporated the voices of students mimicking the sounds of Caribbean drums to further integrate human experiences into the musical piece.

Following the success of Voces en Exilio, Calvar is now preparing for another SU’s annual Holidays at Hendricks concert at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 2 at Hendricks Chapel.

Calvar and Anne Laver will direct the Hendricks Chapel Choir for an array of holiday songs, joined by the SU Brass Ensemble that is directed by James T. Spencer.

Calvar is expecting that the free concert that typically signals the start of the holiday season here in central New York will reach full capacity.

“I’m always working on something … even the challenges are fun, and it makes my career fun and the passing hours, worth passing,” Calvar said.