Panama Jazz Festival: Scholarships Build Bridge to Opportunity

Mitzi Dorbu
January 8, 2009

Before the featured artists for the Panama Jazz Festival step on stage, Berklee College of Music will have already put many of the country’s young talents in the spotlight to audition for the prize of music education. In the past two years, the college has awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships for summer and full-time education. As part of the college’s unique worldwide search to identify outstanding musicians, a team of Berklee educators will conduct auditions and interviews. The schedule is as follows:


Panamanian Applicants

Sunday, January 11, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Academia de Música La Nota (in front of the Multiplaza on Via Israel)


Foreign Applicants

Thursday, January 15, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Ascanio Arosemena Theater (in classrooms behind the theater), Panama Canal Authority, Balboa-Ancon


Winners will be announced on Saturday, January 17, at Cathedral Square, Old Panama City. Some of those chosen may attend Berklee as early as this summer. 

Berklee administrators expect to see hundreds of musicians from Central and South America, possibly as far away as Chile for auditions, interviews, and clinics.

In addition to bringing musicians to Boston, Berklee is sending music production and engineering and music synthesis professors to Panama for audio and music technology production clinics and workshops. From January 12 through January 16, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Berklee will offer innovative programs such as Sampling Workshop Around Panama City that will take participants outdoors (Summit Park, the Public Market, Central Avenue, and other landmarks) to capture material for their work. The schedule of these clinics is available at

That bridge leads back to Panama for tenor saxophonist and 2007 Berklee Presidential Scholar Jahaziel Arrocha, who kicks off the festival as part of Berklee’s Panama Jazz Quartet for a live, real-time sound recording clinic at the Ascanio Arosemena Theater. Arrocha received a Five-Week Summer Performance program scholarship in his native Panama and was later selected as a Presidential Scholar, which pays for all tuition, housing, and fees for four years. Arrocha’s return home will include another performance with the Berklee all-star, all-scholarship group featuring Jimmy Lyon Scholarship recipient, drummer Jonathan Pinson from Harbor City, California; pianist Julian Shore, from Narraganset, Rhode Island; and bassist Shinichiro Sakaino from Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, January 17. The group will perform on the same stage where this year’s winners will be announced and the place Arrocha stood only a year ago when he accepted his scholarship.

Berklee College of Music President Roger H. Brown will be at this year’s festival attending public and private events. One of Berklee’s missions is to gather the world’s best musicians for study. "Our goal at Berklee is to become the global focal point for creative musicians who are committed to creating the next new music,“ says Brown. “We have to work hard to find those talented aspiring artists, support them to come to Berklee, and help them fully unleash their creative capacities."