Founded by Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez, the Panama Jazz Festival which celebrates its 5th birthday January 21 - 26, 2008 was created in order to exchange cultural experiences between the best musicians in the world and the Panamanian people. Perez's vision has guided the growth of the festival, which while continuing to bring top tier international artists to perform in ticketed and free events, now has as its inextricable center the need to address music education.  According to Perez, "Each year we have been expanding the educational aspect of the Festival, bringing in more notable musicians as master teachers, additional major educational institutions, growing the audition process, reaching out to the most needy communities in Panama and increasing the amount and kind of scholarships, and the cultural opportunities we are able to make available to the young people of Panama.  We now see ourselves as an educational and cultural convention, as opposed to a traditional jazz festival," he continued, "Of course bringing top American and International talent to perform in the Festival continues to be a very integral and exciting part of what we do.  It is the performances, the ticket sales, the government and corporate sponsorship of the Festival that makes it possible to fund our educational agenda."
For the Fifth Anniversary of the Panama Jazz Festival several special events are planned.  On Wednesday, January 23 at a formal Gala Concert at the National Theater, PŽrez, with featured performers from the Festival and very special guests will perform an Evening of Boleros. On Friday afternoon January 26, a special family concert will be given from noon to five PM at the Las Huacas theatre at the Atlapa Convention Center.  This concert will feature a performance created and rehearsed over the 5 days of the Festival and performed by Panamanian children.  In addition, The Festival will award the Panama Jazz Festival Scholarship to a teacher working outside of Panama City for his special contribution to regional music and culture.
The Panama Jazz Festival and the Perez Foundation have been able to grow the festival only through the cooperation of government and private support.  The 2008 Festival is under the sponsorship of Ricardo Perez, SA (Toyota Distributor of Panama), Movistar (a mobile telephone company) and relies on the continuous support of Panama's President Martin Torrijos, Panama City's Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro, Panama's Minister of Tourism Ruben Blades and the U.S. Embassy.  Writing in Jazz Times, Bob Blumenthal noted, "Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Panama Jazz Festival and the most surprising sign of jazz education is that those in power are ... aware and supportive."
CONCERT AND PERFORMANCE DETAILS:
The formal concerts will begin on Wednesday, January 23 with the Gala at the National Theatre, and will be followed by ticketed evening concerts held at the Anayansi Theater of the Atlapa Convention Center on Thursday, January 24 and Friday, January 25.  A family concert will be held at the Las Huacas theatre at the Atlapa Convention Center on the afternoon of Friday, January 25.  An all day free concert will be held at the Cathedral Plaza, in el Casco Antiguo on Saturday, January 26. The Stanley Jordan Trio, Dave Samuels and the Caribbean Jazz Project, featuring Alan Mallet, Oscar Stagnaro, Mark Walker The Catherine Russell Group and The Tia Fuller Quartet featuring Kim Thompson will perform.  In addition, Danilo PŽrez, Jahaziel Arrocha, along with special guests and Panamanian and Latin American artists still to be announced will perform.    For complete details on concerts, venues and ticket prices please visit www.panamajazzfestival.com.