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January 2018 Cover
December 2017 Cover

Ken Wiley

Opening of the Panama Jazz Festival

Ushered in by a torrent of drumming, singing and dancing staged by an Afro-Panamanian folkloric group, the annual Panama Jazz Festival launched  its 13th edition with a renewed focus on music education and its role in promoting a civil society. During the six day-long event, hundreds of Panamanian musicians, from elementary aged neophytes to more advanced high school and college students and adult members of a military band, will attend an ongoing series of clinics taught by noted jazz musicians and professors from elite conservatories. Throughout the day and into the night, performances are staged by local and visiting groups. Headliners include trumpeter Dave Douglas, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, and a trio featuring drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, pianist Geri Allen and saxophonist David Murray. Ninety-year old piano legend Randy Weston, to whom the festival is dedicated, will perform, as well as revered Puerto Rican singer Danny Rivera and a host of others from Europe, the U.S. and Latin America, and festival founder and famed native son, the celebrated pianist and music education proponent, Danilo Perez.

Concurrent to the jazz festival, a five day-long conference focusing on music therapy further underscores the festival’s focus on education and the multi-faceted roles that music can play in society. In opening remarks, Perez noted that in the late 1960s his father had authored an academic paper on how music can have a positive effect on society as a whole. Today, the small Central American nation of Panama is a leader in providing music education to youth with Perez’s foundation in the fore of the movement.

The festival, staged at various locales in the Panama City and the surrounding area, including a former U.S. army base, continues through Saturday.

Pictured above- Trumpeter Dave Douglas leads the Berklee Global Jazz Institute septet during the opening night concert of the annual Panama Jazz Festival. Photo credited to Mark Holston.

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