Dedicated to Danilo Pérez, Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest Features Alumni, Students, and Faculty
This year’s Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest was dedicated to Danilo Pérez B.M. '88, the Grammy-winning artistic director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI), and featured several Berklee alumni while incorporating opportunities for students. The festival, in its 27th year, took place at the Bahía Urbana Amphitheater in San Juan, not far from the location of the Berklee in Puerto Rico program, which is taking place through May 28.
Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest executive producer Luis Alvarez B.M. ’83 and vice president at Mendez & Company, noted, “In the elusive world of jazz, Danilo is a true Renaissance man, fully committed to the betterment of the quality of life of all around him.” Alvarez described Pérez as “a true friend, an exceptional musician, and a remarkable human being.”
Pérez met the dedication with excitement, calling it "a tremendous honor" and one which will serve to remind him of the BGJI's "responsibility to continue with the mission of using music as a tool for the restoration of humanity."
At the festival, which also featured artists such as iLe, Miguel Zenón B.M. '98, Spyro Gyra, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Lannie Battistini '82, Bobby Valentín, and more, Pérez delighted audiences with a trio that included BGJI master's degree program student Nathan Winn on drums and BGJI artist in residence Ben Street '88 on bass. Pérez also performed with a larger ensemble that included former BGJI artists in residence David Sanchez and Roman Díaz on tenor saxophone and percussion, respectively, as well as Patricia Zarate B.M. '99, executive director of the Panama Jazz Festival and former BGJI outreach coordinator, on soprano saxophone. Puerto Rico's primary newspaper, El Nuevo Día, described the performance as "groundbreaking" and as having "surpassed all expectations."
Zenón, a Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow who recently released an acclaimed new album, Típico, studied privately with Pérez. "I am proud of his development as an artist and human being today," Pérez says.
Watch Zenón discuss his new album:
Zenón is among those alumni from Puerto Rico who received a scholarship to attend Berklee at the festival. Alvarez, a 2015 recipient of Berklee’s George Wein Impresario Award, has been instrumental in supporting many such scholarships, and Pérez says that the impact of such support cannot be underestimated: "To many young and disadvantaged students from Latin America who want to become professionals, it improves their lives and it provides opportunities and support."
Berklee International Network partner Conservatorio de Artes del Caribe, located in San Juan, has opened up further opportunities and support by establishing a credit-transfer agreement with Berklee, enabling more students from Puerto Rico to start their Berklee education closer to home. During this year’s festival, several Puerto Rican Berklee students and alumni, such as saxophonist Edmar Colón B.M ’15 M.M. ’16, performed with Pérez and Eguie Castrillo, associate professor of percussion. Each year, Castrillo works closely with the students to assure that they deliver a crowd-pleasing set while providing his mentorship.
“It is a very significant opportunity for students' development as musicians,” Castrillo said, “as this is their first presentation at an internationally renowned festival in their home country.”