After Válaszút, he continued his studies at the Reformed College of Cluj. Then he went on to the Pedagogical College of Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy), but got his graduation diploma in Cluj. Between 1946 and 1950, he worked as a primary school teacher in Viștea (Magyarvista). In 1951, he was admitted to the College of Music, where he was a student of the legendary Jagamas János, who encouraged him to pursue his activity as a collector of folklore, which he has already begun in his childhood. This preoccupation was now also aided by Gunda Béla’s courses in ethnography, held at the University of Cluj.
The first years of communism already predicted his later troubled life. His family was designated as „kulak”, that is to say, a public enemy. Thus, his official relationship with the College of Music ended in 1955. Due to his professional calling and curiosity, as well as on the basis of his teaching diploma, he was appointed as a school teacher to Lespezi (Lészped), a Csángó village from the vicinity of Bacău (Bakó). It was here that he got to know their traditions and, faced with the forced Romanization policy of the state, he also began to collect their vocal and instrumental folk music and other traditions.
In 1957, teaching in Hungarian was prohibited in the Csángó villages of Moldova. However, he was not able to leave this enchanting region. Thus, he took up a job in logging in the Ghimeș (Gyimes) valley, where he worked for eight years. During these years, he got acquainted with Martin György and Andrásfalvy Bertalan, with whom he later shared his travels through Transylvania, especially in the region of the Transylvanian Plain and Călata (Kalotaszeg), in order to record the everyday traditions and the knowledge of the folk dancers, musicians, and singers.
He began publishing the volumes of his uniquely valuable ballad collection in the ’70s. Nevertheless, this did not mean at all an end to his harassment by the authorities.
The regime change in December 1989 and the facilitation of border crossing also meant that he could now better enjoy the fruits of his hard labor. Now he could also begin to systematize his enormous collection and to publish the recorded material. In 1992, he created the Kallós Zoltán Foundation, which to this day organizes and supports various activities directed at the preservation of Hungarian folk traditions. The Foundation is also one of the most important advocates of the Moldavian Csángó’s cause and the basic educational institution of the Hungarian children living in the diaspora of the Transylvanian Plain,
In 1990, Kallós Zoltán was distinguished with the Életfa (“Tree of Life”) award for his lifelong activity. Ever since then, the awards of the Hungarian state continued to flow, including the Kossuth Prize (1996), the Hungarian Corvin Chain (2001), the Kossuth Grand Prize (2017), and the Europa Nostra award.
Kallós Zoltán was the single most important collector of folk music in the Hungarian language area. His collections were anthologized on several audio records, and his archival records were edited and published as several record series. Although considering himself “no folk singer, but a mere lover of the Hungarian folk song”, he has also published two audio records as a singer, and contributed to several ethnographic films as a specialist advisor, while also participating at folk music festivals as a celebrated singer.
Last but not least, Kallós was one of the great initiators of the “dance house (táncház) movement” and of folk music and traditional folk dance camps. His influence as an educator can scarcely be overestimated. During the long decades of his life, he made several generations of young people love Hungarian folk art. His professional and personal advice inspired legions of followers to undertake the career of the folk musician, dancer, and/or ethnographer.
On February 14, 2018, we have lost in him the most successful collector of Hungarian folk music, the father of the Transylvanian dance house movement, and the honorary “grandfather” of several hundred children from the Mezőség diaspora. His long and meaningful life, as well as his exemplary work now still shows the way for his family and colleagues of several generations. His biography proves once again that hard work always bears its fruits. We will always remember him with a heavy heart, while also cheerfully recounting the life stories of our Uncle Zoli.