The history of the Panama Jazz Festival begins in 1965 when Danilo Perez Urriola (father) begins to experiment on how to use music with young people with behavioral problems in poor communities of Colon and Panama. In 1967 he wrote his thesis dissertation explaining how music helps young people to learn faster, remember information more easily, practice creativity in all subjects and in a whole music helps them to become better citizens. Later, when his first child was born, who is now the great jazz pianist Danilo Perez Samudio, he teaches him all subjects in school through music and Danilo Perez Jr. absorbs these teachings and then passes on this practice with peers and Panamanian musicians creating classes of improvised music and music programs at no cost to the youth. Perez Jr. After studying in USA, becomes a student of jazz greats and its programs continue to grow until later he creates the music program of Panama´s Jamboree in the 1980s. He also helps create the jazz program at the Conservatory of Puerto Rico in 1990 and travels the world playing with their teachers, performing several concerts, clinics and master classes in different areas of Panama and the rest of the world. Then in 2003 he decides to start an international jazz festival. Then in 2004 he starts the Danilo Perez Foundation to organize all educational events and programs making a sustainable project that will impact the whole country in the context of twenty-first century. Danilo Perez founded the Panama Jazz Festival in 2003 to fulfill the dream of having in Panama and international jazz festival of the highest category. During the first year and with no private sponsor, the festival attracted over 8000 people and more than 200 music students wishing get a glimpse of the Jazz Masters. In its eleventh edition, the Panama Jazz Festival attracted over 25,000 people and over 2000 students from all over the world. Since its creation the festival has summoned more than 220,000 people worldwide. The Panama Jazz Festival will include musical clinics (music lessons) that are held during the week from 9am to 4pm. At 4pm concerts will be held in different parts of the city of Panama in the following order: Evening Family Concert 4-6pm, 7-11pm Concert Ateneo Theatre and National Theatre 11pm and 2am jam sessions in Danilo’s Jazz Club.
The clinics or master classes range from different subjects, such as: playing and mastering instruments, composition, folk, classical music, improvisation, music therapy, and many other subjects related to music. The professors who teach the classes are the best students and teachers of music schools that collaborate with the festival. These educational institutions include the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, New England Conservatory, the Conservatory of Puerto Rico, Golandsky Piano Institute (based at Princeton University) and other universities who have participated sporadically including the University of Massachusetts, Conservatoire de Paris, among others. This Schools also make the Panama Jazz Festival an audition center for Latin America, attracting thousands of students from all over the world, to audition for admission and scholarships to these institutions. As for the 11th festival, the total money in grants announced during the Panama Jazz Festival amount to more than $ 3.5 million.