Born in Manila, Philippines in 1948, and migrating to the United States in 1958, Carlos Zialcita is a Blues and Jazz harmonica player, singer, composer, bandleader, jazz festival producer and educator. He has been part of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene for decades, working with many different artists, bands, and students. Zialcita has recorded three CDs as a leader including Train Through Oakland produced by Johnny Otis, Evolution with the Carlos Zialcita Jazztet and Soul Shadows with the band Little Brown Brother. He also appears on numerous recordings by blues artists including Johnny Otis, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Country Pete McGill, Sonny Rhodes, and Aireene Espiritu. Zialcita is the Co-Founder and Director of the San Francisco Filipino American Jazz Festival, which was founded in 2008.
Currently, his work in the Filipino community is based at the International Hotel Manilatown Center in San Francisco, where Zialcita serves as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation. He works as needed for Gallery Staff support and to serve as the host and MC for different events at the Manilatown Center including live musical performances, film screenings, and cultural-historical presentations. He is the MC and provides audio and technical support for San Francisco Comedy College, which is housed at the Manilatown Center, the former location of the iconic SF Nightclub, the Hungry I. On occasion, Zialcita performs on harmonica and vocals with Autonomous Region, Manilatown’s in-house jazz band. Zialcita is the coordinator of “Manilatown Movie Time” and works with a committee to provide on-line screening of a film followed by an on-line community discussion. In addition, he is also the host and performs in the “Manilatown Music” component of the Club Mandalay Program, where he presents a musical segment to illustrate and honor the work of the early Filipino American musicians performing in Manilatown and the Chinatown nightclubs from the 1940’s to the late 1960’s.
Zialcita’s experience as an educator includes 12 years with the Peralta Community College District as assistant to class instructor Johnny Otis. Together, they taught a class on the History of Jazz and Blues in Popular American Music. Zialcita was a teacher at Encinal High School in Alameda, CA for 15 years where he sponsored the Pilipino American Culture Club. He is a former instructor at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music and Stagebridge Performance Academy for Seniors in Oakland, CA. Zialcita continues to give harmonica and voice lessons at Clarion Music Center in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the I-Hotel Manilatown Center in San Francisco, and his home in Oakland, CA. His musical studies include classes taken at the College of Alameda, the California Jazz Academy in Berkeley, and private lessons with harmonica masters Robert Bonfiglio (classical) and Donald “Duck” Bailey (jazz). Zialcita continues to honor and spread the magic of harmonica music and the rich culture of American jazz and blues along with Filipino and world music through his performances and to his community and students.
In addition to his work with the SF Filipino American Jazz Festival, Zialcita has also collaborated with the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) on a number of projects, and is currently an Advisory Board Member to Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc. (PAWA), based in San Francisco. He is a contributing writer to Positively Filipino Magazine, an on-line publication with international readership, and received a Plaridel Award from the Philippine American Press Club in 2013. Zialcita is one of the contributing writers in Filipinos in San Francisco on Arcadia Press (2011), where he wrote the chapter on the Arts, and Beyond Lumpia, Pancit and Seven Manangs Wild on Eastwind Books (2014), where he contributed If I Were I King, a short story about Latin Soul singer Joe Bataan. In 2015, Zialcita was presented with a Hero Award by the Filipino Community of San Francisco in recognition for his presentation and performance of Filipino Jazz and Blues music. His work with the San Francisco Filipino American Jazz Festival was recognized by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Volume 7 on Music in their Encyclopedia of Philippine Art (2017). In 2018, Zialcita received an Individual Artist Grant from the City of Oakland for the Silindro Pilipino Project: Harmonica with Pre-Colonial and Colonial Filipino Music.