Festival founder and artistic director Danilo Perez is proud to announce the fourth annual Panama Jazz Festival, scheduled for January 18 - 20, 2007. The Perez Foundation is organizing the Festival along with the sponsorship of Ricardo Perez, SA (Toyota Distributor of Panama) and the continuous support of Panama City's Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro. In addition to ticketed concerts held at the Anayansi Theater of the Atlapa Convention Center, there will be a free concert at the Cathedral Plaza, in el Casco Antiguo and performances at smaller music rooms such as La Platea and La Casona by local and international musicians.
The Danilo Perez Foundation was created in order to offer scholarships and opportunities for cultural growth to children and young people of limited resources with talent in the arts, as well as the training of professional artists and the creation of activities which support public reinforcement of the arts, education and the culture in Panama. Perez, who is a faculty member at the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) and Berklee College of Music, has made educational exchange a central part of the Panama Jazz Festival. In order to accomplish this, the Danilo Perez Foundation has joined forces with the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music to provide the educational component. Each year the musical exchange and educational/workshop part of the festival has grown. In 2007 NEC and Berklee faculty members, along with top US students, will participate in master classes, workshops and performances. In addition, 300 and 400 young Panamanian students will take part in the workshops seminars and concert at the Belle Arts Department of the University of Panama from January 15 -19 .
"Since I started teaching at NEC I've grow so much as a musician by being exposed to all kinds of music and students. I want to bring this down to Panama...In Panama the kids are hungry for education," PŽrez said in interview with the Boston Herald.
The fruits of this educational union are already in evidence; during the 2005 Festival, Milagro Blades, a seven year old percussionist attended one of the workshops, and then performed to critical accolades in last years' festival. This January she will perform at the Gala celebrating the opening of the 2007 festival. Perez's manager, Robin Tomchin, who is also the International Coordinator of the Panama Jazz Festival, added, "We are very excited about the fourth edition of festival. The festival has grown every year and I am especially proud of the educational component; it is a unique feature of our festival and reflects the goals of the Perez Foundation, to foster artistic growth and to contribute to the legacy of jazz in Panama . Watching the faces of the Panamanian and American students as they participate in performances and workshops is truly gratifying."
Each year the Festival is dedicated to a Panamanian musician that has contributed greatly to the music community in Panama and/or in the world and who exemplifies Panama's rich musical landscape. For the 2007 Festival, the honoree is vocalist Barbara Wilson who died in June of 2005. Called by Perez, the "Billie Holiday of Panama," she spent a lifetime playing in small clubs and bars, never getting the recognition that she deserved. Her singing was a perfect combination of Latin music with jazz sensibilities. Added to that, she sung Latin American standards (Boleros) with such tenderness that her audiences felt like they could fall in love right on the spot. Perez called upon her to perform as a featured artist with her group Panama Jazz Effects for the inaugural 2003 Panama Jazz Festiv