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UNF music grad takes to the stage


He was about 8 or 9 years old when he realized what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.


After listening to his father, an accomplished musician, play with his friends, he realized that was the life for him.


“I took after him from an early age,” said Daniel Kalisher, a 2009 graduate from the University of North Florida’s Department of Music. “And I really haven’t changed my life goal since I was really young. I wanted to be a musician, play guitar and tour. Now I’m doing what I saw myself doing when I was a kid. How crazy is that?”


Kalisher has played guitar and toured with the backing bands for Drake Bell, the former star of the Nickelodeon hit TV show “Drake and Josh,” and “Glee” star Matthew Morrison. The tour with Morrison took him across the United States and Canada while they opened for multi-platinum boy bands New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys. He is currently writing, producing and playing for several artists in Los Angeles.


Looking back on his rapid-fire career trajectory, Kalisher said it wouldn’t have been possible without his undergraduate experience at UNF.


The South Florida native started playing the guitar in elementary school and was continually pushing himself to get better. And when he wanted to take his craft to the next level, he came to UNF’s tremendous Music Flagship Program.


“I wanted to move into this uncharted territory and really challenge myself, so I decided to pursue jazz music,” he said. “I went to another school for my first year, but that wasn't really happening for me. At the time, I kept hearing through the grapevine that UNF was amazing and would be the place for me. So I checked it out.”


Kalisher first saw a performance by jazz guitar professor Barry Greene and had to pick his jaw up from the theater floor.


“I was awestruck,” he said. “His skill was just on another level. That’s what made me realize that UNF was definitely the right spot. If I could learn from him, then I’d be good.”


He said the program’s focus on giving students hands-on learning experiences in the form of regional and national performances helped push him to get better.


“You really improve when you’re up there in front of a ton of people,” he said. “You get that rush of everyone watching you, and you just relive all the times you’ve practiced. The faculty prepared us well.”


Greene said he remembers Kalisher fondly as a skilled guitarist with the determination to go far.


“Daniel was always a fantastic student, very disciplined and focused,” Greene said. “His primary goal was to move to Los Angeles and get on the road with some performing act, and he pulled it off in less than a year. In the area of pop and rock music, he was always a standout. We loved having him at UNF.”


Kalisher said his priorities to become a better musician and consistently challenge himself were met — and then some — at UNF. And he appreciated that each of his professors allowed him to explore his interests — pop and rock music — while making his way through the jazz studies curriculum.


“They didn't try to put me in a box,” he said. “And I’m a more worldly musician because of it. The things I learned at UNF helped me get to this point, whether it’s standing in front of an audition room or performing in front of a crowd. That practice — from working on the basic mechanics of playing and reading music to playing with players who were better than me — prepared me for everything.


“UNF was just such a humbling place for me. Everyone was so cool and so nice. No matter where I go, I never want to forget where I came from.”