Journey Diary

Michela Calabrese

Michela started playing guitar at the age of 16. She was so enamored with Led Zeppelin that she taught herself how to play. At the age of 18, Michela temporarily left music to finish her studies, earn her diploma, and finally realize her greatest dream: a trip to Latin America, which she had been planning since the age of 15. The trip lasted six months, and transformed her profoundly, bringing out in her a rebellious, tormented, artistic soul, facing the world in all its complexity; an inner world, to which she turned thousands of questions, and an outer world, which called to her forcefully, wherever there were stories to discover… and to live.
The urgency of finding meaning to life, and her place in the world, inspired her to respond in the most natural way: by returning to music, this time in a new form, as a “street performer,” playing, living, and breathing among the people, within the sparkling rhythm of a city — Rome — which she had fallen in love with, and which she had chosen as home in those revolutionary years of “experimentation and research.”

After about two years, she met the instrument of her life, the flute, and from that moment on, she became inseparable from it. It was real love at first sight! She isolated herself and studied for several months in total immersion, and then she emerged, almost unconsciously, ready to dive into the blues and jazz.

During this time, she established some of her most important musical relationships while “on the road” with several musicians, playing concerts and events together, and sharing lots of unforgettable moments of life; these moments remain etched in memories and have shaped her way of playing. Among them was Angelo Blu, with his scratchy blues harmonica. He followed her to Sardinia, where they became pioneers together with the guitarist Marcello Calabrese, her brother, and the three of them performed the first “electric concerts” in the streets of the city Cagliari. The three musicians performed in various clubs around the city, making themselves known and creating artistic collaborations with local musicians.

Angelo Blu – Michela Calabrese – David Gueye – Cristina Angiuli

Michela’s return to Sardinia also coincided with the desire to devote herself to deepening her passion… she wanted to learn how to read music, to be able to share its language.
She started looking for a music teacher and mentor.
She enrolled as a student, at the “P.L. Da Palestrina” Conservatory in Cagliari, where she obtained a diploma in music theory and solfeggio. There, she met the person who would guide her through an in-depth and decisive study of sound, Maestro Salvatore Saddi, the flute professor who would become her mentor for the next two years. Michela would reconnect with the Maestro again later, in a more mature stage of her life, and would continue an in-depth study of flute technique.

During the period in Sardinia, (1992 – 1998), Michela was involved in various artistic collaborations:

In 1992 she participated in the “Cagliari & Blues” festival, as part of the band Max Demian – Alberto Sanna on vocals, Gemiliano Cabras on bass, Daniele Russo on drums, Angelo Blu on harmonica and Marcello Calabrese on guitar. Max Demian shared the bill with artists Solomon Burke and James Senese, with his “Napoli Centrale”.

In the same year, she played with the “Franco Montalbano Blues Band”: Franco Moltalbano, frontman (voice and guitar), Mauro Sanna (bass), Giovanni Collu (drums).

After a period in Sardinia, Michela left for Paris, where she studied for several months with Denis Barbier, a flute player in the Gil Evans orchestra. She returned to Sardinia and became part of a band that between ’93 and ’97 was among the most followed in Sardinia, performing original acid jazz/funk songs: Waldorf Astoria Team (W.A.Team). The excellent musicians in that group included:

Maurizio Corda – composition, voice and keyboards. Andrea Pau – lyrics, electric bass. Monica Mureddu – arrangements for voice and percussion, Andrea Pintus – drum. Marcello Calabrese – arrangements and lead guitar. Michela served as arranger and lead flute.


This band’s chemistry was pure alchemy, and for several years they put on show for the whole island. They also took part in two important events in ’94: “Testaccio Village” and “Arezzo Wave”. In ’95, they received considerable public and critical acclaim for an Italian tour which included performances in Verona, Firenze, Milano e Roma, with two concerts at “Palladium”. That same year, they opened for the Cagliari concert “Pitura Freska,” which was one of the most rewarding experiences for the band, highlighting the incredible harmony between the players, with groove and a lot of fun.

In ’97 she played in the funky-jazz quartet “Question Mark” with Alessandro Puddu (guitar), Mauro Sanna (bass) and Gigi Sanna (drums).

In ’95, during one of her concerts with W.A Team, Michela was noticed by Cristiano De Andrè, who asked, “But…Who are you? An alien?!” He asked her to play on two songs of “Anime Salve,” recorded by Fabrizio De Andrè, which won the “Targa Tenco” award  from music critics – off of which Cristiano had done arrangements for: “Le Acciughe fanno il pallone” e “Dolcenera.”
During the recording for “Anime Salve,” Fabrizio De Andrè came into the studio suddenly, while Michela was recording. He asked her to improvise a duet with him and a final solo, in which found she herself counterpointing the solo “turkisa trumpet” composed by Paolo Bressan, in the song “Le Acciughe fanno il pallone” that they recorded during the first session.
Unforgettable experience… The voice and personality of Fabrizio; he welcomed her warmly, and brought an emotion as special as the bond between father and child. The vibrancy of their relationship stayed with her for a long time, and ultimately brought her to Milano, where in 2001, she recorded some songs by Cristiano De Andrè for the music album “Scaramante.”
In ’97, before moving to Milan, Michela performed as a guest artist at the Palasport with Fabrizio De Andrè during his Cagliaritana tour. She will never forget the moment when Fabrizio called her up next to him, and introduced her to the crowd in Cagliari, and then greeted her with a kiss on the forehead!

In Milan, from 1999 and 2001, Michela collaborated with Vittorio Centro and “Il Porto Dei Santi” in the project “Le Cose Inutili,” for which Vittorio Centrone was the leader, keyboardist and vocalist, along with Glenda Carubba (bass), Stefano Tedeschi (guitar), Pietro Pizzi (drum). Over time, the project included several musicians, including Arup Kanti-Das (tablas), Maurizio Belluzzo and Riccardo Del Togno (keyboards), Walter Muto and Giovanni Calella (guitars). Michela’s collaboration and friendship with Vittorio has been extraordinary from the start. The two met in a club through a mutual friend (Thanks Stefania!) — and that first night, he told her “I want to play with you… I never heard you play before but…I know that I will love how you sound”. And indeed it was an meeting of souls. The two still very close friends today… they share a sort of brotherhood that transcends time… and distance.

In 2009, she received a diploma in jazz flute and music theory and harmony at Academia Civic Jazz in Milan. While she was a student, she played in on the album “Italian Jazz Graffiti 2002” with the Civic Jazz Band directed by Maestro Enrico Intra.

From 2002 to 2009 she co-led the quartet quartet “When The Buddha Smiles” with the trombonist Francesca Petrolo, which played for various events, including “Event In Jazz, 2007,” organized by the local councils of Castellanza and Busto Arsizio.

Francesca Petrolo e Michela Calabrese

Most of the members of this band — Michela Calabrese, Francesca Petrolo, Alessandra Cecala — got to know each other and played together at Civic Courses of Jazz in Milan, with the exception of Margherita Santomassimo (pianist).

Michela Calabrese, Margherita Santomassimo, Francesca Petrolo, Alessandra Cecala

A lot of concerts… and a close friendship characterize this long collaboration. Milan has always been a cradle for creative artistic collaboration, and within this backdrop Michela collaborated with many wonderful musicians. Out of these sessions, a long-standing collaboration with the trombonist Francesca Petrolo began. The two participated together in the 2007 exhibition “WOMA JAZZ FESTIVAL, the 1st European All-Female Jazz Festival” with the project TREXTRE SUITES 5et, alongside Helga Plankensteiner, Silvia Bolognesi, and Anne Paceo.

In 2010, Michela played in the Festival “Lucca Jazz Donna” with the same project, TREXTRE SUITES 5et, with the same band members, except for Anne Paceo (drummer), who was replaced by Julie Saury.

Both events featured this all-women band. The group played a tribute to three artists – Artemisia Gentileschi, Frida Kahlo e Louise Bourgeois – by creating true “paintings in music,” written and curated respectively by Petrolo, Plankensteiner, and Bolognesi. Three Suites for an organic pianoless gave voice to an impromptu interplay between the musicians.

Between 2008 and 2009, she collaborated with Teresa Pomodoro’s NO’HMA foundation, for which she prepared several shows, including “L’acqua non ha nemici,” under the direction of Charlie Owens.

During that same period, she participated in the project “Racconti di Natale,” a tribute to Dino Buzzati under the direction of Elda Olivieri, with music written by Franco Cerri (guitar), whom she collaborated with. The band included Michele Di Toro (pianist), Mattia Magatelli (double-bass) and Riccardo Tosi (drums).

In 2010, she opened for the Festival “Iseo Jazz 2010” with a quartet led by bassist Marco Vaggi; a double-bass professor and ensemble music workshop instructor at the Academia Civic Jazz in Milan. The band included Antonio Vivenzio (pianist), and Emanuele Serra (drums). The project was born directly out of these workshops, in which Michela had participated, with passion and enthusiasm.

In 2011, Michela resumed her journey as a “Street Art Performer,” based out of Milan, but continuing to perform on the streets of several Italian cities with success. People are impressed by the jazz flute, which is unique in the Milan street scene, and often from these performances come interesting, exciting encounters, which become artistic collaborations or strong friendships.

In 2012, she played with the Francoise Pujol Quintet for the project “Aioli Systéme,” produced and directed by the French pianist and bandleader Francoise Pujol; a classical and jazz pianist and successful composer, who was the first woman to play in the National Jazz Orchestra of Paris. The other musicians in the quintet were very talented and well-known in the French music scene: Renaud Luis–Servaise (lead guitar), Marc Loy (voice), Florent Richard (electric bass), Alain Gouillard (drums) and Jon Hammond, an American musician and producer (electric organ).

This was an important learning experience that led her to perform in Paris at the Babilo and Cafè Universel; and in New York at the Williamsburg Music Centre in New York (which is managed by Archie Shepp’s bassist, Gerry Eastman) and at the “Artists for Peace” exhibition organized by SGI-USA CULTURE CENTER.

Michela Calabrese – Gerry Eastman

In 2015, for the first time, she decided to play as street artist at Umbria Jazz. It was an incredible experience… Musicians and artists came from all over the world! It was there that the artist Tony Bennet (who had a concert that night at the Arena Santa Giuliana, performing a duet with Lady Gaga) heard Michela playing, and after listening to her for a long time, congratulated her and bought her CD! It even ended up in the newspapers…!

La Nazione

In the meantime, her journey “on the road” continued, and in March 2016, Michela experienced an unimaginable adventure. The next day, she met a lady in passing, Francesca Baccani, who stopped to listen to her during one of her performances, and  told her about her adventures. Francesca, in her “appetizing” blog “The Recipes of Connie Vulcano”, said of her:

“The Recipes of Connie Vulcano (Francesca Baccani)”

Monday, March 7th

Sometimes when I wander around the city aimlessly, I feel like I’m wasting my time. Other times when I’m out and about, I find myself wishing I had stayed home, where it’s warm and cozy. But then something happens, indeed, something always happens, which reminds me why I must never stand still. Just such a thing happened yesterday. I went out reluctantly, with nothing to do, and I was ready to go home as soon as I arrived in the square, and instead … instead, I heard the notes of a flute, and not just any average flute, but the notes of a flute that you would never forget if you hear it even just once. Looking at the center of the square, I see the most incredible artist I have ever met on the street. A jazz flutist — which is already very rare; how many do you know? — a person who lives every note, and who can engage people who are the most skeptical about jazz – many of whom have never listened to it and who would consider it boring and incomprehensible music. A small amplifier, a microphone. A petite woman, impervious to the cold, an improviser who left us speechless. But it doesn’t end there. She stops playing, and welcomes you with a dreamy look, a beaming smile. Energy at all times of her life; this is Michela Calabrese. Follow her on Facebook, and look for her around Milan. She plays in the Duomo, on Paolo Sarpi street, in Piazza 24 Maggio, and who knows where else. A few days ago, a guy passed her by who filmed her and also offered her two tickets to the Blue Note, where he would be performing that night with Arturo Sandoval. Nice, isn’t it? But, what happened during the day? The guy, who was Sandoval’s percussionist, showed Arturo the clip of Michela. Arturo had his tour manager call her and invite her to play with him. It was a sensational success. They closed the concert with “Night in Tunisia” and he even left the closing melody for her to play. She pulled them all together, and the Blue Note exploded. See, a story like that, a meeting like that would never have happened to me if I had stayed home, warm on the couch! I prepared today’s menu with my head still buzzing, intoxicated by this impressive musician, whom I hope to see playing soon alongside Herbie Hancock!

In the same year, 2016, in the wake of this incredible adventure, told by Elle magazine, Michela was contacted by the director of the Sardinian Orchestra, Giovanni Agostino Frassetto, and she joined in the show “TIME IN JAZZ”, in the project NORMA, composed and conducted by Maestro Paolo Silvestri in collaboration with the Mediterranean Orchestra, the Jazz Orchestra of Sardinia, and Paolo Fresu (trumpet soloist).

 Playing under the direction of Paolo Silvestri and next to Paolo Fresu was inspirational…a great emotion! Michela is the only woman in this orchestra who was born from the encounter between brilliant musicians from Sicilia and Sardinia. Her Sicilian father and Sardinian mother became the symbol of this fusion that represents her origin. Beautiful experience.

In 2018, she returned to play as street art performer at Umbria Jazz… There was an exciting electricity in the air, and the concerts followed one another endlessly during those magic ten days, while Michela performed through the streets of downtown.

Michela was noticed by two of the groups who were part of renowned festival; The Mystics and Rockyn Doopsie, who invited her to play with them on the last night, respectively in Piazza IV November and Giardini Carducci. It was an unforgettable night, with high emotions and a real sea of people. The Mystics even involved her in a marvelous “moment of prayer” before the start of the concert! Unforgettable.

Mystics – Rockyn Doopsie

In January 2019, she played at the Macomer Cultural Centre with the band “E SE VAI”, musical project made up of songs and poems written by Fabrizio De Andrè. Bad members included: Cristian Manca, Gianfranco Manca, Francolino Bichiri, and Andrea Nieddu. The evening celebrated the 20th anniversary of Fabrizio’s death. The room was full; the concert was sold out. It was as though Fabrizio were there! At least two hundred people remained outside. It would have been nice if it had been possible for them to come in!

“And the journey goes on…”

Foto di Barbara La Fumagalli

Heartfelt thanks and acknowledgements

Thanks to my parents, Marigia and Nino. A special thanks to my mother, who has always been a great example of how to live life with courage and consistency, and for giving me immense trust. Thanks to my brothers Stefano – sound engineer – and Marcello…with whom, since I was born, I have shared laughter, joy, and love for music.

To my spiritual master Daisaku Ikeda, to his wife Kaneko and to the Soka family.

To my music guides, Masters Salvatore Saddi, Giulio Visibelli and Marco Vaggi.

To Giovanni Agostino Frassetto, for his friendship and his precious advice.

To all of my friends, the real ones… the good friends that speak the truth… with a special thought for Tommaso Meloni and Katerina Bowman.

To Angelo Blu, with his poetic and revolutionary harmonica, who gave us so much and left us too early…

To all musicians that I met and with whom I play, that have accompanied my journey, giving me Time, Energies, Inspiration, Precious Collaborations, Magic Moments…

To all those who stopped to listen to me, or for singing, dancing, talking to me, enriching my life…

To Simona Mauri, my “sister in life,” who gave me a notebook where I collected all my works and collaborations…

To all those who immortalized me in their photos, with passion and enthusiasm, professional photographers and amateurs; you can see the pictures in my gallery: Diego Bardone, Alessandro Devinu, Terminus Photo, Gloria Astrid Tuzzi, Luigi Ottani, Alena Marchenko, Carmen Galeone, Angelo Meroni, Enzo Azzimonti, Viola Cadice, Claudio Pandolfi, Carlo Murgolo, Gianluca Miano, Barbara La Fumagalli….and who knows how many others!!!

To Bonnie Atzara, who gave me a beautiful picture of the Sardinian sea, which became the cover of my CD Riflessi, and also background of my website.

To the journalists who, with precision and accuracy, have told my history – see PRESS – and become a part of it: Monica Piccini, Cristina Manfredi,  Sabrina Zanino, Alessandra Carta, Andrea Massidda, Beppe Montresor

Heartfelt to Alessandro Colizzi, who helped me create my CD covers and this colourful website, dedicating his time and his experience, but above all his precious humanity.

Heartfelt to Bruno Portoghese and Antonello Ledda (Leddix)!

Heartfelt to Kelly Ash…

Foto Alessandro Devinu

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