Berklee Global Jazz Institute Comes to Bocas del Toro!

Music lovers in Bocas del Toro, save these dates: May 25, 2023 at Lost Boys Blues Bar and May 26, 2023 at Buena Vista restaurant.  Panama Jazz Productions is bringing Berklee College of Music to Bocas for unforgettable jazz experiences for all ages.

“It was one of the best school bands we have ever heard in Panama,” said Patricia Zárate about the music students at Colegio Rogelio Josué Ibarra on Isla Colon.

“Within an hour, the entire band had learned When the Saints Go Marching In…They learn by ear; they are very fast…and furious! I can see that they practice a lot; every day or every week at least,” continued Zárate, as she reflected on her experience during last year’s Bocas del Toro for the Fundación Danilo Pérez, part of the “La Ruta de Jazz” in celebration of 20 years of the Panama Jazz Festival.

Patricia Zarate

Patricia Zárate


Bocas del Toro is a small community with big talent and this review of the local student band is quite the accolade coming from Zárate, an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, executive director of the Panama Jazz Festival and professor at Berklee College of Music.

Zárate was also very impressed by the amount of female participation in the band, and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that most of the wind instrumentalists are girls. A saxophonist herself and leader of “Las Hijas de Jazz Big Band,” she does not rule out the possibility of a Bocatoreña one day joining the ranks of her all-female jazz band.

These school visits and master classes are a day in the life of Berklee students participating in the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, where social activism and community outreach are all part of the curriculum and overall mission to bring music and its unifying and healing power to the masses.

“We go to prisons, nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals…We go to the places with the least access to music, and bring it to the people who need it most,” said Zárate in an interview with The Bocas Breeze.

She explained that school visits are also the norm for the Berklee students, both in the US and trips abroad, wherever there are schools with a band and particularly those that lack the resources to bring in international teachers.

This social activism and community outreach through music approach that Berklee Global Jazz Institute employs had already been honed through the work of the Fundación Danilo Pérez  , which served as an inspiration for the development of Berklee’s Global Jazz Institute, after the president and vice president of Berklee College of Music visited the Panama Jazz Festival for the first time and witnessed the power of the Fundación Danilo Pérez in action.

Danilo Perez and Luis Russell

Danilo Pérez and Luis Russell, two Panamanian jazz composer-pianist greats! Pictured at the Luis Russell Mural in Bocas del Toro, October 2022. Photo courtesy of Ariel Pérez Price.

It is important to note that Danilo Pérez himself visited Bocas del Toro in October 2022 and worked with the students during the first session at our local public high school on Isla Colon. What an honor it is to have the Grammy award winning jazz pianist and composer and “UNESCO Artist for Peace” take an interest in the musical development of our community.

In our interview with Patricia Zárate, she mentioned there may be some scholarship opportunities at the Fundación Danilo Pérez for the students of the Colegio Rogelio Josue Ibarra high school band, which is also known as “Dr. Jose ‘Pasito’ Anderson Banda de Música.”

Berklee Global Jazz Institute comes to Bocas

May 25 and 26, 2023 at Lost Boys Blues Bar and Buena Vista

On their second musical visit to Bocas del Toro, Panama Jazz Productions will be bringing five students and three faculty members from the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. Together they will participate once more in master class musical instruction with the local high school band, as well as two very exciting public performances. The first of which is on Thursday, May 25, 2023 at 7pm, at Lost Boys Blues Bar, with food and beverage being provided by the lovely people of The Floating Bar.

The group of international Berklee students that will perform is made up of Luciana Garcia (piano, Chile), Ilya Blazh (drums, Russia) David MacChione (bass, Italy), Ignacio Diaz (drums, Chile) and Luke Walker (steelpan, Trinidad and Tobago).

Patricia Zárate will be in attendance of course, along with founder and artistic director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Danilo Pérez, managing director Marco Pignataro, and the executive director of Fundación Danilo Pérez, Aleida Duartes, all accompanying the students for these activities.

The May 25th concert will prove to be a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable musical experience in Bocas del Toro. The group is preparing tributes from Panama jazz greats, including numbers from  Bocas legend and pioneer of jazz Luis Russell. Furthermore, the integration of the steelpan gives the night a “beebop-meets-calypso Caribbean jazz” type of feel. Food and drink will be provided by The Floating Bar.

a photo of a street mural depicting the Bocas del Toro jazz pioneer Luis Russell

The mural dedicated to Luis Russell, the Bocas del Toro pioneer of jazz, born on Carenero Island in the year 1902. The mural was created by the artist Madmagos, 2021.

You could say the same thing about both dates, actually, as another one-of-a-kind, unforgettable musical experience is coming our way the next evening at Restaurante Buena Vista, but this time in the form of a jam session with the participation of musicians from our talented island community. The Buena Vista jam session will take place at 7pm on Friday, May 26, 2023.

In short: don’t miss out!  Both events are open to the public, however space is limited.  The entrance is a $5 donation.

Make sure you reserve your space by filling out this form on-line: For more information about this event you can write to

These wonderful musical experiences are being presented by Panama Jazz Productions thanks to the sponsorship of Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Panama Jazz Festival, Fundación Danilo Pérez, Lost Boys Blues Bar/Pirate Arts Experience, Restaurante Buena Vista, Centro de Musicoterapia de Panamá and Global Jazz Club.

Berklee Global Jazz Institute comes to Bocas del Toro

The Bocas Breeze is a digital and print newspaper proudly serving the Bocas del Toro community since 2004; reporting news, advertising local businesses and promoting tourism in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *