“The Panama Jazz Festival is committed to making a major contribution to the cultural, social, touristic, academic and economic development of this country. When we started in 2003, many thought it was ‘crazy’ and we worried if we could produce a second edition. Today, with over 150,000 attendees and the distribution of $2 million in scholarships, we proudly celebrate a full decade of major accomplishments.” —Danilo Pérez, founder and artistic director of the Panama Jazz Festival
Much is made of the music and the caliber of musicians at jazz festivals. They are the main draw for audiences after all. But for the Panama Jazz Festival founder/artistic director Danilo Pérez, executive director Patricia Zárate, and a host of participating supporters, volunteers, and sponsors, jazz can save lives.
World-famous Grammy-winning pianist Pérez and Zárate believe in this so much that they and their supporters have put a lot into the educational outreach portion of the festival — celebrating 10 years coming on January 14th.
Amidst the slamming live concerts and jam sessions planned throughout Panama City in the festival’s 10th annual Pathway to Jazz, organizers also give the youth a chance to shine. Students from far and wide will audition at the City of Knowledge for coveted scholarships to the Berklee Global Jazz Institute of the Berklee College of Music, the New England Conservatory, the Puerto Rico Music Conservatory, and the Golandsky Institute, to name a few. Students will also get to learn more about music through specialized educational programs and classes, as they’ve done in festivals past.
New this year is the debut of the first Latin-American Music Therapy Symposium, the result of a partnership between the festival organizers and the people from the Berklee College’s Music Therapy Department.
At last year’s festival, over 1,500 students from the U.S., Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, and Venezuela came to learn more about music from the best in the business. They attended over 80 classes ranging in subjects from guitar and folklore, to classical music. For many of those students, this was their ticket out.
“Drawing the best jazz musicians of the world, the festival has created a new generation of Latin-American musicians who are socially active and work daily for the prevention of violence and an end to poverty. The Panama Jazz Festival is one of the most significant events in all of Latin America,” said festival executive director Zárate.
Respected Panamanian musician Pérez added that the festival is also significant for the host city itself. “The Panama Jazz Festival is committed to making a major contribution to the cultural, social, touristic, academic and economic development of this country.”
Pianist/UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, the Wayne Shorter Quartet (with Danilo Pérez, John Patitucci, and Brian Blade), and guitarist Bill Frisell headline this year’s 10th annual Panama Jazz Festival January 14-19. Pérez can’t believe how far the jazz festival’s come from a spark in 2003. “When we started in 2003, many thought it was ‘crazy’ and we worried if we could produce a second edition. Today, with over 150,000 attendees and the distribution of $2 million in scholarships, we proudly celebrate a full decade of major accomplishments,” he said.
Other artists on the roster include an actor/musician originally from Panama City, Rubén Blades, and Peruvian vocalist/composer Susana Baca. They and throngs of music lovers will hit three main venues for concerts, lectures, cultural workshops and educational outreach: the Hotel El Panama Jazz Club (jam sessions), City of Knowledge (educational outreach, auditions for scholarships, nightly concerts – January 14-18, closing show), and the ATLAPA Convention Center.
The big finish happens at the City of Knowledge’s Central Quad with a free, open-air concert (the festival’s first) January 19, 1 p.m.-10 p.m., featuring Blades and the Panama Jazz Festival Big Band, UNESCO Artist for Peace Pérez, and six international bands.