I'm going to start off by saying that I'd never have thought I would go on a trip to Panama. I'm glad I did!
It all started with Billy Herron (a 2007 music production and engineering major and guitar principal) asking me to play on a recording session for Danilo Perez's the Panama Suite. This project included students, faculty, and staff from both Berklee and the New England Conservatory. Perez teaches at both institutions and wanted to create a special collaboration. It was a great vibe and all the players in the band were spectacular.
Some months later, Billy approached me again and stated that Danilo planned to have the jazz orchestra perform the Panama Suite at the 2007 Panama Jazz Festival in early January 2007. The Danilo Perez Foundation was orchestrating this amazing event.
I was asked to participate in the festival and teach at the clinics that were being conducted at the University of Panama. I was a little bit nervous, but thought it would be a good experience for me.
I joined a group of Berklee students, faculty, and staff for the trip to Panama. The group included fellow students Billy Herron and Francisco "Pancho" Molina (a 2007 professional music major and drum set principal); Music Production and Engineering Department chair Rob Jazcko and assistant chair Dan Thompson; vocal professor Mili Bermejo ('84); chief of staff Carl Beatty; and Jason Camelio, trombonist/associate director of International Programs. All are heavies in their own fields and wonderful, interesting people, too.
Before even playing a note or starting the clinics, I met a few of the trumpet players. Everyone was excited to have musicians from Berklee presenting master classes and clinics at the university. The clinics went over great. The students all enjoyed the exchange of ideas and gained some insights into being better musicians. I taught them about sight-reading (subdivision, reading articulations), how to build strength (range and air), and overall, how to be a good lead trumpet player.
After the clinics were finished, the students followed me into other rooms and I would end up giving either private lessons or more full-on clinics. They were all excellent people—gracious, kind, and very fun to hang out with.
One of the major highlights of the trip was getting the chance to work with and hang with the legendary trumpeter Victor "Vitin" Paz. Jason Camelio and I got to sit in and play with his band at the university where he teaches. He had nothing but the kindest and nicest words to say. He took me all around Panama City, including the Panama Canal. He told me about his experiences in New York as well as his world travels as a lead trumpeter. He is a beautiful guy and one of the greatest lead trumpet players in the world.
Playing with Danilo Perez was also a great experience. He's a very straightforward guy when it comes to rehearsing, but at the same time he made it the best vibe anyone could possibly want to be in. He got the band to play with so much energy.
I met and hung out with great players and wonderful guys. I thank them all for the fun nights out and letting me sit in with their bands. Having the chance to spend time with them, play music, and share ideas was an amazing experience.
I was sad to leave Panama. But before I left, one of the students in the clinics, Alejandro Castillo, gave me a traditional Panamanian vest as a gift. This was a powerful gesture and I realize the work we do as musicians can inspire the best in all of us.