3. Danilo Perez

Bringing people together through music has been Danilo Perez’s life work. When the United States invaded Panama in 1989, musician Danilo Perez flexed his diplomatic muscle by performing a death-defying concert in the capital. The pianist/composer/educator’s show attracted everyone, even the soldiers from the conflict. It was an early example of what earned Perez title of Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO, the scientific and cultural arm of the United Nations. Perez was chosen for the prestigious title because, as UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova remarked at his nomination ceremony, his music embodied “the dynamics of cultures, the way in which they influence each other and are continuously reconstituted.”

Born in Panama in 1965, his bandleader/singer father taught him to play the drums when he was just three years old. The elder Perez also inspired his son to use music to learn other subjects. “I had an incredible teacher in my father, who viewed music as a very powerful tool to change people’s lives,” Perez has said.

“I am committed to being a messenger of peace, to unite people, to create dialogue through jazz,” Perez said during an interview from his Boston-area home. His commitment is clear from his choice of projects. Perez has served as a Panamanian Cultural Ambassador, teaches at his alma mater and The New England Conservatory of Music. He also works as the artistic director of The Panama Jazz Festival, now in its tenth year, which was held in Panama City this month. Danilo Perez’s dedication to education and his immersion and mastery of the global art of jazz, form the blueprint of his amazing and enduring success. “Jazz is a declaration against all forms of oppression,” Perez proclaims. “It speaks the language of freedom.”

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Image Courtesy of Danilo Perez

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