Danilo Pérez: A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama For the pianist and founder, the Panama Jazz Festival is much more than a bunch of concerts in his hometown. It's an exhibition of how music can change a neighborhood, a political climate or a life.

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Jazz Night In America

Danilo Pérez: A Man, A Plan, A Canal, PanamaWBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Danilo Pérez: A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama

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In the greater jazz world, Danilo Pérez is a respected pianist. In his homeland of Panama, he's a national icon and cultural ambassador, and not just for his artistry. Ever since he returned to perform in his war-torn homeland in the 1980s, he's seen the potential for jazz to be a vehicle for social change, and spent much of his time offstage seeding this vision in the form of youth music education programs. The Panama Jazz Festival he founded, for instance, doesn't just feature major international acts — it brings students from all sorts of backgrounds to share the stage, and funnels profits back to them.

Jazz Night In America goes to Panama City to take in festival performances by Pérez, John Patitucci and a rising-star violinist named Joshue Ashby, and finds out how music can change lives in Panama. This episode is guest-hosted by Felix Contreras of Alt.Latino.

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