Music at the service of peace: Danilo Perez & Placido Domingo honoured at UNESCO

© UNESCO/L. Rukingamubiri
Danilo Pérez (left) and Plácido Domingo (right)

World-famous musicians, Danilo Perez and Placido Domingo, were appointed as UNESCO’s Artist for Peace and Goodwill Ambassador, respectively, at the Organization’s Headquarters in Paris on 20 and 21 November.

In a world that is increasingly connected, but at the same time more fragmented by deep inequalities, “music and culture can help people better understand and listen to one another," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. Music creates new bridges of dialogue and respect, strengthening the ties between all. Jazz is an especially powerful example. “Jazz is much more than music. It is the song of freedom – freedom of improvisation, because jazz is reinvented whenever it is played. Jazz is the soundtrack of struggles for human dignity and civil rights – jazz is about values, human rights and action to combat discrimination. Jazz pre-eminently illustrates the power of music against violence, injustice and insularity – it teaches tolerance to our multicultural societies."

© UNESCO/L. Rukingamubir
Panamian pianist and jazz composer, Danilo Pérez, was nominated UNESCO Artist for Peace on 20 November 2012.

At the nomination ceremony of jazz artist Mr Perez, the Director-General praised his music for embodying “the dynamics of cultures, the way in which they influence each other and are continuously reconstituted.” Originally from Panama, the musician fell in love with jazz at a young age and moved to America to study jazz composition at the Berklee College of Music. His distinctive, thrilling Pan-American jazz style has earned him the music industry’s most prestigious awards, including the Grammy Award. As a UNESCO Artist for Peace, Mr Perez plans to use music to advance positive social change, in line with UNESCO’s aims and ideals.

Among his other engagements, the artist will continue providing outreach music programs to Panamanian children living in extreme poverty.

© UNESCO/L. Rukingamubiri
Irina Bokova and Plácido Domingo

In his acceptance speech, opera legend Placido Domingo stressed the importance of encouraging children to learn classical music, a mission he would like to undertake as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Teaching children to appreciate opera will take this artistic genre into the future. “Popular music is at such a distance from classical music,” explained Mr Domingo, “Children should know that there is something else… and they will learn it while having fun.”  Mr Domingo’s ardent efforts “to bring opera and music to the widest audience possible, and to demolish boundaries between classical and popular music” are most remarkable, underscored the Director-General. During the ceremony, Mr Domingo presented winners of his Operalia competition, aimed at discovering and honoring today’s best young opera singers. Proceeds from a charity dinner held at UNESCO on the same evening will go to UNESCO’s Education for All Programme and the newly launched Placido Domingo Festival (Seville, Spain) of which UNESCO is an official partner. 

By advancing the social good through the arts, UNESCO’s newly appointed Artist for Peace and Goodwill Ambassador demonstrate the power of music to bind people as a single community, woven together by common aspirations. Music is supremely generous. It transcends and, in so doing, it unites.


UNESCO Artists for Peace are internationally-renowned personalities who use their influence, charisma and prestige to help promote UNESCO’s message and programmes. UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors are an outstanding group of personalities who have generously agreed to use their talent and status to help focus the world's attention on the work of the Organization in education, science, culture and communication. UNESCO works with Artists & Ambassadors to heighten public awareness regarding key development issues and to inform the public what the Organization's actions are in these fields.

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