Tuesday, 27 November 2012


The acclaimed Panamanian pianist and jazz composer Danilo Pérez has been appointed UNESCO Artist for Peace “in recognition of his efforts to provide outreach music programmes to children living in extreme poverty in Panama and his dedication to the ideals and aims” of the United Nations cultural organization.

The musician, known for his distinctive Pan-American jazz style, has received many awards for his social work in Panama. He is the president of the Danilo Pérez Foundation which provides outreach music programmes to children living in extreme poverty in the country.

Pérez with UNESCO's director-general Irina Bokova
“It’s an incredible honour to be named Artist for Peace, and I take it with a lot of pride,” Pérez told SWAN after giving a lively concert at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris on Nov. 20.

“I’ll do my best to expose youth to the music, the values of the music and what it can teach about how we relate to other people and to our environment,” he added.

Born in Panama in 1965,  Pérez currently directs the Berklee Global Jazz Institute at Berklee College of Music, in Boston, Massachusetts. He has developed an educational curriculum based on what he calls “inter-connective learning”, which allows students to experience and practice ideas linked to social change through music.

Pérez  also serves as the Artistic Director for the Panama Jazz Festival, an annual event that attracts thousands of jazz fans and provides auditions, admissions and scholarships for Latin American music students and professionals. The tenth edition of the Festival takes place January 14-19, 2013, in Panama City.

The jam session
American jazz legend Herbie Hancock, who will be among the performers, has called Pérez one of the “most exciting” pianists of today, and the Panamanian lived up to that billing with his performance in Paris. He did a jam session with local musicians and even got the be-suited officials present to snap their fingers and shout their appreciation.

Pérez draws on his Latin American roots, be-bop, and Caribbean and world music to create his own individual blend. “He’s just great,” said one Mexican staffer who attended the concert.

According to UNESCO, Artists for Peace are “internationally-renowned personalities who use their influence, charisma and prestige to help promote UNESCO’s message and programmes”. The agency works with them in order to “heighten public awareness regarding key development issues” and to inform the public about UNESCO’s action is in these fields.

(Images courtesy of UNESCO)