Early in 2009 I was hired to go down to Panama for a photo assignment. I was shooting for K.C. Hardin who, it turns out, is one of the people responsible for the success of the Panama Jazz Festival and the Danilo Perez Music Foundation there.
I did some shooting in the music school and got the feeling that some great things were happening there for the kids in the area. Kids who mostly live in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Panama.
So when it was getting close to January of 2010, I decided to try to get back down to Panama City for the Jazz Festival. I spoke to Danilo’s people organizing the week and they gave me a press pass to shoot as I pleased and I set up my own photo-workshop for the week following the festival to subsidize my trip. It worked out, and I am planning a second photo-workshop there in March, 2010.(psst, pass it on)
I had heard that many jazz greats play this festival and looked forward to seeing some inspiring shows. What I didn’t know was how moved I was going to be by the music workshops that are held all during the festival week. Every day scores of youngsters pour into the classrooms and theatres carrying their prized instruments to play with other kids and be inspired by so many great musicans from all over the world who are there to give their time to them. I wandered around the buildings following my ears into various classes and practice rooms, hallways and staircases where all kinds, ages and colors of kids sat and played music together. I was blown away. I never saw anything like this before. I took alot of pictures, but they really don’t convey the full sense of what all these music lovers, teachers and students bring to Panama City every January.
I have been telling everyone I know that they should clear their calendar for next year’s festival, take vacation time, quit their job…whatever, to get down there and experience the rare beauty of this event. One could sit in the corner of any one of the workshops for these kids and come away with enough inspiration to get you through the year. And when I sat one evening and had a drink with Danilo and KC Hardin, I realized how this festival came to be and grows more each year. These are some people-loving, passionate individuals who really care about the community there.
There’s hope after all for the next generation!