01/28/11

P. Mauriat Donates Saxophone to Panamanian Jazz Student

Photographer,saxophonist and saxophone company team up to help Samuel Batista, a student at Danilo Perez’s program in Panama City

Photographer Roy Gumpel hadn’t intended to get involved with a campaign to help Samuel Batista, a young jazz musician in Panama. It just worked out that way. Now the young saxophonist is awaiting word on his acceptance to the Berklee School of Music and New England Conservatory of Music for the fall of 2011, and with a real professional instrument in his hands, thanks to a succession of good deeds by good people on three different continents.

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Roger Manins
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Samuel Batista with P. Mauriat saxophone
By Roy Gumpel
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Samuel Batista with his P. Mauriat saxophone
By Roy Gumpel
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Samuel Batista with P. Mauriat saxophone
By Roy Gumpel

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It all started a few months ago when Gumpel traveled to Panama City for a photo assignment. “While walking past the Danilo Perez Foundation, the small music school for children there,” says Gumpel, “I heard the sound of a saxophone coming from the basement window. It stopped me mid-step and I couldn't help but ring the door bell and ask the way to the basement. At the bottom of the small dark stairway the sound of that saxophone was coming from behind a door. There I met a young, gifted musician practicing the chromatic scales as if his life depended on it. I knew then and there that this humble young man was destined to be a wonderful jazz musician and I knew that I would do whatever I could to help him on his path.”

The young man was Samuel Batista, who had participated in Perez’s music education programs for youth in Panama City. Gumpel says that although Batista’s playing was impressive, the horn itself wasn’t. “After speaking with him a bit I asked him that if he could have a new saxophone, which one would it be. His answer was a P. Mauriat Le Bravo model.” The list price for that particular model is $2,790. The manufacturer, P. Mauriat, is based in Taiwan.

Gumpel decided then and there to make something happen. “I was hoping that he might have it in his hands in time for his audition for the Berklee School of Music and the New England Conservatory during the Panama Jazz Festival in January.” Gumpel began a fund drive via Facebook in November of 2010. However, he soon realized that it would be slow going to raise the amount of money needed for that saxophone model. He then came up with the idea of contacting the P. Mauriat company to see if they might consider giving Gumpel the instrument at a discount. He really hadn’t considered the prospect of a donation.

Gumpel started searching online and found a sax player based in New Zealand named Roger Manins, an endorser of P. Mauriat horns. (Manins is semi-famous for his somewhat satiric YouTube “lessons” on playing smooth jazz on saxophone.) He e-mailed Manins and asked for his help.

Manins says that he was impressed by Batista’s raw talent. “I only had to listen to a few phrases of Samuel playing before I recognized his talent and understanding of the music, so that part was easy,” says Manins. The next step involved Manins acting as an intermediary between Roy and Alex Hsieh at P. Mauriat.. “I was straight away impressed that Roy was genuine and Samuel was talented, so I wrote to Alex Hsieh, presented the case, and asked him if something could be done,” explains Manins. “It was a more complicated process than I would have thought, but in the end we got there!”

Manins reached out to P. Mauriat’s CEO Alex Hsieh to help by giving either a free horn or monetary donation. Hsieh, CEO of P. Mauriat, told JT that his company verified the story with its distributor in Central America, who ended up speaking with Samuel’s teacher, Carlos Ubarte. Hsieh and P. Mauriat decided to offer Samuel a free horn at the Panama Jazz Festival to fulfill the young man’s dream. In an e-mail from P. Mauriat’s headquarters in Taiwan, Hsieh said that, “The whole story process was complicated and tied into many correlations. Yet, the result was healthy and positive. It is P. Mauriat’s company [policy of] goodwill to help and support the young, gifted musician when there is a need required, so as to return the investment back to the society as well.”

The brand new horn was presented to Batista during the recent Panama Jazz Festival, and in time for his auditions for the U.S. jazz programs. “I haven't seen a happier young musician,” says Gumpel.

“Samuel was lucky,” adds Manins. “He was in the right place at the right time, and Roy has a heart, but there are plenty of others from all walks of life out there who need exposure, encouragement and guidance in this incredible art form from those of us who can help.”

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