01.02.2013 -

Danilo Pérez

© Raj Naik - Danilo Pérez

Born in Panama, he studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music of which he is now the Artistic Director.

Tell us about your story and about your beginning in music and Jazz.

I was born in Panama and I had one neighbor that always listen to jazz, so from early childhood I listen to jazz, and many other styles of music, especially cuban music. I started perfoming with my father who is a singer since I was 12 years old. Also Panama had a wonderful jazz scene that I was exposed to during my early years. Panama jazz history is America's hidden jazz treasure. We have had many recognized Jazz artists such as : Luis Russell ( Pianist of Louis Amstrong), Sonny White ( Pianist of Billie Holiday) and many more.

What are the values promoted by Jazz? Why do you think a day like International Jazz Day is important?

I have been using the study of jazz music for 25 years in Panama to promote cultural understanding, to practice tolerance, perseverance, respect for all beings, team work and develop listening skills. In addition I have a foundation in Panama that uses jazz music to fight extreme poverty, prevent violence and promote economic development as well as directing  the Berklee Global Jazz institute located in Boston which prepares the future ambassadors of the music. International Jazz Day is a very important day for me since it celebrates the impact of jazz music in the development of world history, specially Latin American music history.

You have been nominated as a peace promoting ambassador. Could you explain how Jazz can promote peace?

With the foundation that I founded in 2005 (and the jazz music programs that I have created since the 1980's) we have been using jazz to learn to listen to each other, to accept struggling while  improvising in group as an opportunity to create a common goal. Our children, who mostly come from extreme poverty situations, while learning jazz, practice the understanding of their life through their music, and their brains develop more due to the practice of creative improvisation. When students are allowed to learn jazz then they become more creative in every aspect of their life. They learn in music to respect, accept, tolerate each other and fight back with love and peace.

Which Jazz greats inspired you most? What would you like to tell him/her?

My mentors have been Dizzy Gillespie, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Steve Lacy, among others. I told all of them how much I loved and appreciated their teachings that are being passed on to the next generation with the creation of the Danilo Perez Foundation (Panama) and the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (Boston, MA), hoping to encourages artistic innovation and new forms of expression.

The decade of people of African ascent (2013-2022)is being organized by the United Nations. As a Jazzman, which role will you play? Tell us about “Providencia” and how you got  to write this title?

I will keep demonstrating our gratitude to Africa through my music.  I will start my role as an Artist For Peace given by Unesco by going in February of 2013  to Africa with the Berklee Global Jazz institute to do some teachings and concerts. Providencia  is my vision of writing music that encourage hope. I was very inspired by the birth of  my two daughters. I imagined my oldest daughter asking me what kind of world we were leaving them.   

What would be your advice to a young artist willing to start his/her career in Jazz?

Dream of the impossible for you but in that dream leave some room for the underpriviledged. Also write music with messages of  hope and courage for humanity, remember that in the 21ST CENTURY we are the guardian of the creative process.

What is your most memorable Jazz ‘moment’?

I have two now : Playing a concert in my country during the USA invasion to Panama in dec 1989 as well as a concert given on January 19, 2013 with Ruben Blades, Panamanian and USA musicians in a former USA army headquarters now transformed into a City of Knowledge

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