Walter Vella is a musician and glass artist.
Art in Glass
Walter Vella's introduction to glass started in the early seventies when he enrolled as an apprentice craftsman/designer in a glass factory set up by the Chinese Government. However, the venture was short lived and Walter started studying Interior Design, earning a Diploma with Distinction in 1975 and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Design Management from Kensington University, California in 1982. He studied etching and aquatint in Stockholm, Sweden in 1978/79, where he was working as a musician.
In 1981, Walter had his first solo exhibition of inks at the Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta. During this time, he worked in several architectural offices and spent ten years working on his own. 1984 saw a turning point in Walter's career where he opened his own stained glass studio, the first commercial studio of its kind in Malta and is still enjoying success today. By 1986, Walter left his interior design profession entirely and concentrated solely on stained glass, where he was determined to excel in this difficult medium.
After a tuition course in Siena, Italy under the master guidance of artist Alberto Positano, he learned the difficult techniques of grisaille painting and silver staining. With this accumulated knowledge and his initial exposure to blownglass, Walter started experimenting with hot glass (mainly fused kiln work) and participating in several joint exhibitions showing his work. In 2004 he made his first solo glass exhibition at St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity.
In 2006, an exhibition entitled "Glass Attitudes" was held at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta. In 2007, Walter worked a master class in England with renowned Australian artist Emma Vargas. His last solo exhibition was in May 2009 at Heritage Malta head office entitled "Shards". Walter's fused glass work and stained glass commissions are found in many private and public places in Malta and abroad.
Walter's musical studies started at the age of nine years studying theory and clarinet under Mro Joseph Mizzi. It wasn't long before he switched instruments and picked up an alto saxophone and began studying under the expert guidance of Paul Arnaud. In the early 70's soul music was in vogue and Walter joined a soul band playing alto/tenor saxes and flute. During this time, he toured the British services watering holes and dance circuit. His early influences on flute and saxophone were bands like 'Osibissa', 'Jethro Tull', 'Blood Sweat and Tears', and 'Chicago'.
Walter left Malta in the late 70's and spent two years abroad in Sweden. During this time, he joined a travelling circus band led by American trumpeter Steve Francovich and also several show bands like The Boppers playing mainly in Stockholm, Gotenburg, Sundsval and Linkoping. After a stint in Norway, he came back to Malta where he met and started performing with musicians like Paul Giordemaina, Victor Schembri and Charles 'City' Gatt. This led to a period of intense training where he developed his style of playing and performing for fifteen years at the renowned BJ's Jazz Club.
In the meantime, he worked with some of the best artists on several projects and recordings as session musician and band member, travelling in Europe, Canada and the US. He appeared on several European Tv stations like BBC, RAI, ABC, Sudwest Funk, Arte Tv, Italia7 and other television channels in Greece, Japan, Bulgaria and Turkey. In 2001, he recorded with jazz pianist Dominic Galea and his brother Ben Galea on their project CD Mnajdra Jazz Suite with bassist Mario Aquilina, the American trumpeter Wayne Naus and Roger Azzopardi. In 2002, he recorded on the Jason Paul Band album From Where I Live, with jazzmen Joe Debono, Jason Fabri and bassist Bernard Scerri.
By this time, Walter had become an active member of the Folk fusion group Etnika, and in 2003 he played on the highly successful second CD album Zifna and performed abroad, mostly in Europe. Also in 2003, he teamed up with jazz drummer Noel Grech and again with bassist Mario Aquilina to form the experimental trio Nazca, recording their first album named Take Off and another album with Vinny Vella covering Beatles tunes named The Beatles Works. In 2004, he also featured on the compiliation double album Tribute produced by Domenic Galea.
Walter continues to perform with Etnika, Nazca, Vinny Vella's band, Dominic Galea's Heritage and world music trio Trania. His main musical influences are composer/flutist/pianist Hermeto Pascoal, Miles Davies, Chick Corea, Mike Brecker, John Coltrane and Dave Valentine.
Featured in CD releases
- Trania 2011 (my band with Jason ‘Chubby’ Fabri percussion, and Mark Attard keyboards)
- Marc Galea - Easy Dialogue 2011 (session muscian)
- Nadine Axisa - Velvet 2014( session musician, and featuring my composition ‘Ghanja’)
- Vinny Vella Jr.- Another Way 2014(session musician)
- Dominic Galea – Ħaġa Muħġaġa 2015(session musician)
- Corazon – Hawn Jien 2015 (session musician)
- Frank Tartaglia - 2015 (session musician)
- Etnika - Madallena’s Marvellous Trip folk Klabb 2016 (my current band)
- Performed at the Malta Jazz festival with Walter Vella Band 2013
- Performed in Frankfurt Germany with Dom Galea’s Jazztet 2015
- Performed in London and Rome 2014 with Etnika
- Tour of Australia including Sydney Opera House concert with Etnika in February 2017