Danilo Perez

©Raj Naik
Danilo Perez, UNESCO Artist for Peace.

Born in Panama in 1965, Danilo Pérez began his musical studies at just three years of age with his father, a bandleader and singer. By the age of 10, he was studying the European classical piano repertoire at the National Conservatory in Panama. As a 12-year old, he started working as a professional musician in salsa bands, as well as composing and arranging for Latin American singers.  

Mr Pérez first attracted the spotlight as the youngest member of Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra in 1989. Since the late ‘80s, he has toured and/or recorded with jazz masters Wayne Shorter, Steve Lacy, Jack DeJohnette, Jon Hendricks, Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Wynton Marsalis, Gary Burton and Roy Haynes, among many others. For the past 12 years, he equally has been part of the Wayne Shorter Quartet - named by journalists, musicians and fans as the “best jazz band on the planet.” Also is a prolific composer, Mr Pérez has been commissioned by the Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center and the Chicago Jazz Festival, among others.  

Mr Pérez’ philanthropic work began in the early 1980’s, when he started teaching and helping Latin American musicians, creating festivals and outreach music programmes, and helping open jazz departments in Latin American universities. He has received numerous awards for his social work in Panama, including notably the Orden Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, the Key to the City of Panama, the Smithsonian Legacy Award the ASICOM International Award, and “The Most Influential Latinos of the Delaware Valley” award.  

Mr Pérez currently directs the Berklee Global Jazz Institute at Berklee College of Music (Boston, Massachusetts), where he has developed an innovative educational curriculum based on the concept he refers to as “inter-connective learning”, which allows the student to experience and practice ideas linked to social change through music. He presides also over the Danilo Pérez Foundation, which provides outreach music programmes to children living in extreme poverty in Panama, and he serves as the Artistic Director for the Panama Jazz Festival - the largest centre for auditions, admissions and scholarships for Latin American music students and professionals.

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