Francesco & Friends
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Francesco & Friends

Fort Collins, Colorado, United States | INDIE

Fort Collins, Colorado, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Acoustic


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"Francesco Bonifazi Brings the Puccalo to the Public"

by Cory Robertson
Dec. 12, 2007

"Whistle while you work" may be what the seven dwarves did, but world-champion whistler Francesco Bonifazi has a different message. He sees whistling -- or "puccalo," a professional term derived from the words "piccolo" and "pucker" -- as an art form in and of itself. To him, and to many others who are part of what he calls a "worldwide movement," whistling is plenty of work on its own. This Sunday, Bonifazi and the Old Town School of Folk Music bring you the basic tools to become a whistling whiz yourself -- or just to press your lips together and blow.

"The first thing is we'll get that first note," says Bonifazi, as he begins to describe the learning process that takes place in his whistling workshop. This is not the first such workshop he's led, and he knows just how whistling should take form in a beginner.

Each student begins with a single note, an unpredictable tone dependent upon personal characteristics. "It's based on the physics of their mouth," says Bonifazi. "It's a chamber of sound that is going to vibrate depending on their shape and how hard they push with their lungs."

Once a given student has established that initial pure tone, he or she will soon be ready to navigate simple tunes like "Eensy Weensy Spider" or "If I Had a Hammer."

Bonifazi will play records by whistling greats in hopes of inspiring students, perhaps striking a chord with some of them the way old-school whistling star Ronald McCroby's performance on The Tonight Show once hit a nerve of inspiration within Bonifazi himself. But Bonifazi will expose students to more than just whistlers -- he'll also encourage them to imitate other instruments, like the tuba or the electric guitar. "Itzhak Perlman listens to other instruments -- he doesn't just listen to violin players," says Bonifazi, indicating just the level of veneration he places on his chosen art form.

Bonifazi does, in fact, view the puccalo as equal to any other instrument. After all, he is a jazz flutist and saxophone player as well as a whistler, and usually accompanies his whistling on guitar or collaborates with renowned pianist Mark Sloniker. Bonifazi even goes so far as to compose his own music for the puccalo, sometimes using electronic effects like octave generators or looping to achieve an often ethereal quality. His album, Air Play, encompasses a multitude of styles and reveals a breadth of possibility many may not have imagined possible for a hobby often relegated to the realm of skipping stones or turning cartwheels.

Once students have begun to master the basic musical elements of whistling, like tone, pitch control, vibrato and intonation, Bonifazi hopes they might be ready for a little harmonizing. Just as a choir of vocalists perform complementary parts according to vocal range, so can whistlers be classified by traditional roles such as soprano or alto. In fact, just one such choir, hailing from Vassar College, performed at this year's International Whistling Convention, where Bonifazi won first place in the popular music category in 2003.

Whether you dream of international fame or simply hope to remedy the toneless puff of air issuing forth from your puckered lips, Bonifazi is prepared to provide you with the needed instruction. You'll walk away from his workshop armed with instructional materials and, likely, a whistling mentor. Sunday's workshop will feature a healthy dose of philosophizing on the subject of whistling, and among the participants will be a master's student writing her thesis on the history of whistling -- proof that there is much more to whistling than you may have ever imagined.

The Whistling Workshop takes place Sunday, Dec. 16 at Old Town School of Folk Music (4544 N. Lincoln, 773/728-6000) from 3 to 4:50 p.m. Cost is $30; register at, by phone or in person. Bring a recording device, water and chapstick.
- UR Chicago Magazine

"Whistler's talent isn't confined to the dark"

Dec. 4, 2005
Bret Saunders - Music Critic


Francesco Bonifazi is serious about raising the profile of his instrument in the jazz community.

Sure, he's a jazz whistler, (and vocalist) but he's also a tasty guitar player.

Bonifazi has released his "Air Play" CD with whistling-based covers of Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk tunes. He makes it all seem effortless, and it's apparent that it's more than just a novelty to him. He's expressing himself as an artist in his chosen way.

- Denver Post

"Recommended Music"

May 11, 2006
Tim Van Schmidt - Music Correspondent


I made it to Manno's Grille for the regular Wednesday night jazz jam headed up by Francesco Bonifazi, also known as "The Jazz Whistler."

Bonifazi is indeed a unique musician, whose most startling talent is turning himself into an instrument (the "puccalo"). and whistling clear, sweet melodies.

Bonifazi, a world-class whistling award-winner, is also busy playing and recording with other jazz musicians thoughout the country. - Forum Magazine

"Blowing His Own Horn...Or Something Like That"

Dec. 2006
Chris Kampfe - Music Critic


Francesco Bonifazi's niche in the music industry is a skill that comes naturally to most people. Despite this, his musical talents extend far beyond just whistling in the shower.

Bonifazi is a jazz whistler, literally. Accompanied usually only by his own guitar, Bonifazi takes whistling from just a step above humming and foot tapping, shaping it into melodic jazz and beyond. The levels beyond have taken Bonifazi to jazz festivals and competitions. Bonifazi has performed all over the U.S. as well as Denmark and Italy, where he was a finalist and only whistler in a major international competition.

"It was funny, I was asked by a number of people (in Italy), 'does everyone in America whistle like this?'" Bonifazi said.

Bonifazi's accomplishments as a whistler have earned him more than just recognition in Italy. In 2003 he was the winner of Popular Music at the International Whistling Championship, and has made appearances on the SKY TV network and CBS.

Bonifazi doesn't feel that his unique talent should be the centerpiece of his performances, but rather the music and artistry with which he performs.

"At my performances, mostly people are there because they love jazz. I really ask my audiences to close their eyes, and forget about the whistling and focus on the music," Bonifazi said. "Then the movelty goes away, so people don't say, 'that's really good for a whistler.'"

Whistling is definitely more than a novelty for Bonifazi and his audiences, and he is turning heads at every performance.

"I would say to be accepted by other top jazz musicians as an equal isn't something you earn from a press release or a CD. Playing live is what jazz is all about," Bonifazi said. "To step on stage with a musician and have them say 'where have you been man?' is really satisfying. I'm on par with other musicians, and I do it one musician and one audience at a time." - Scence Magazine


July 2012 - Francesco & Friends will perform at The South Park Music Festival on Aug 17, and compete in the band competiion whose judges include Glen Frey/Eagles.

June 2012 - Song Wait For My Smile wins Runner-Up in Bluegrass in The East Coast Songwriters Contest out of North Carolina.

Nov. 2010 - Joey Weltz (aka Bill Haley and the Comets) selected Francesco's music to represent at 2011 MIDEM music conference in France.

Song Heaven - #2 on American Idol Underground Jazz Chart, 2007. Heaven also won an Honorable Mention in the USA Songwriting Contest.

Song Lay Down You Arms - #12 on American Idol Underground Rock Chart, 2007

Air Play CD - released in 2006. Available at

Played on public radio across the US, Canada, and Europe.



(aka The Jazz Whistler)
A Profile

***NEWS*** June 1, 2011 - Francesco was part of the winning team who created a corporate video for the Hewlett-Packard Co. Francesco performed in the video and wrote the lyrics for all performers, which promited performance in a corporate environment (the contest theme). Winning team members are being flown to Las Vega to participate HP Discovery (HP's largest event), and get to go backstage to meet Paul McCartnery (yes, that McCartney) who's giving a show for this event.


A refreshing twist on Acoustic Americana music, Francesco uses his skills and success in other genres to make it his own. Penetrating lyrics, interesting and uncommon music, and often with a playfulness that allows listeners to approach sometimes difficult subjects.

This electronic press kit features Francesco’s Acoustic Americana music which is currently in the production process. Working with producer and vocal coach to many stars - Ken Tamplin (, he expects his new release out later this year.

While best known as the leading Jazz whistler today, his music ranges well beyond any categories. Having performed with symphonies – he has the chops that amaze audiences. It’s a “Spicy Musical Jambalaya.”

Not to be confused as a novelty act, he is a singer/songwriter in the truest sense. His songs have earned awards and placed highly on online charts including #2 in Jazz and#12 in Rock on The American Idol Underground Charts. His song Heaven earned an Honorable Mention in the USA Songwriting Contest.

While his whistling skills can keep up with any soloist, it’s also his use of restraint and subtle techniques that make it work in Americana music. In his Bluegrass song Wait For My Smile he goes toe-to-toe with the other soloists including Grammy-winning bassist Gene Libea and mandolin player Patrick Sites (of White Water Ramble). While on Angels, he uses his whistling as a gentle suggestion of the feathers on an angel’s wings. This range of abilities and sensibilities is rare in music today.

Critics have called his technique the most modern use of whistling in improvisational music today. Brett Saunders of the Denver Post remarked, "He makes it all seem effortless... expressing himself as an artist in his chosen way. He's also a tasty guitar player." With music that distinctively combines instruments as well as elements from multiple genres and styles, Francesco’s whistling is the "extra spice." He can swiftly integrate a phrase from a Bach concerto into a rock, folk, or jazz solo, and still land on his feet.

As world-renowned classical composer and musician David Amram said it best: "Francesco is, in effect, his own Stradivarius."

Whether performing solo, as a guest soloist or with his back-up band Francesco & Friends, he is that rare blend of accomplished musician and magnetic entertainer.

Francesco has appeared on the CBS Sunday Morning Show and as a guest on numerous radio shows across the country. His flexibility is demonstrated by a wide range of performances, including as a soloist with the Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra, and accompanying blues legend Deacon Jones at the Disney complex in Anaheim, California.

Francesco’s initial CD release, Air Play, is a seamless combination of jazz standards as well as original songs composed by him or in collaboration with pianist Mark Sloniker, who has appeared on Billboard Magazine’s New Age Top Ten charts. Air Play’s mix of standards and six original songs demonstrate the diversity of Francesco’s musical palette and his ability to bridge pop, folk, rock and jazz on one release.

Air Play has been broadcast extensively on public radio across the US, Canada, and Europe. With performances at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen and the MusiCamdo Jazz & Blues Festival in Camerino, Italy, Francesco is building an international following. He has also been a finalist in the Massimo Urbani International Competition for vocalists and instrumentalists, and won 1st Place in Popular Music at the International Whistling Convention.

His tune SelTalk was used in the award-winning independent film 10 MPH, released in 2007.

Not one to keep his talent to himself, Francesco has lectured and taught classes on non-traditional instrumentation and whistling workshops at colleges and public schools throughout the country. He was the first to teach a whistling workshop at the well-known Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, as part of the school’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Above all, Francesco’s style is playfully spontaneous. Listeners can’t predict what sound is coming around the next measure: it might be percussive vocal scat or whistling that mimics the sound of a locomotive. Doing the unexpected has come to be expected in Francesco’s music and performances.

For More Information, please contact:

Francesco Bonifazi