Creative improviser and woodwind player Piotr Michalowski was born January 9, 1948, in Woking, England, but grew up in Poland. A primarily self-taught musician, his connection with music began during his teenage years as he learned guitar and drums. As a high-school student he played drums for a traditional Dixieland jazz combo in Warsaw. After attending the University of Warsaw from 1965-1968, he came to the U.S., earning a master's in 1972 and his Ph.D. in 1976 in Near Eastern studies at Yale University, followed by research fellowships at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, and an assistant professorship at U.C.L.A. He only began playing woodwinds later in life, having started elementary clarinet lessons with Ira Schulman while in Los Angeles, and was inspired by improviser Vinny Golia. Michalowski's main full-time work is in Ancient Near Eastern Languages & Civilization Studies, leading him to teach at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is an extensively published author in his field, as well as in jazz music as a columnist, reviewer, and liner note and feature writer. In Ann Arbor, he became more interested in performance, taking a few lessons with local saxophonists Paul Vornhagen and Vincent York. While continuing his path of self-instruction, he gained experience with the Washtenaw Community College big band under the direction of Dr. Morris Lawrence, Jr., and was showcased at the Montreux-Detroit, Windsor, and Ann Arbor Jazz Festivals. He was also on the bandstand with David Swain's II-V-I Orchestra, and after that spent a few years in a standards trio and quartet with bassist Pat Smith. While a competent jazz player, pure improvising was what he wanted to pursue, so he took master classes from Trent Kynaston, Ned Rothenberg, and Andrew Bishop. Then he joined the University of Michigan's Creative Arts Orchestra, directed by Ed Sarath. This led him to a collaboration with Sarah Weaver's sound painting orchestra Weave, bassist James Ilgenfritz, and most importantly, violinist Mike Khoury. Michalowski was also a member of the creative improvising world ensemble Sublingual and the group Babardah, and is the proprietor of the Abzu record label. As he expanded his horizons, he also increased his arsenal of instruments, playing soprano, sopranino, baritone, and tenor saxophones, soprano and bass clarinets, and C and alto flutes.
Piotr Michalowski Biography
by Michael G. Nastos