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Where Gifted Musicians Grow

Danilo Perez with BGJI students – Photo by Dave Green

Where do gifted musicians go to become student leaders of a world community and affect positive social change?

by
Doug Hall

The Berklee Global Jazz Institute in Boston, founded by Grammy-award winning jazz pianist, composer, professor and educator Danilo Pérez, through a curriculum that includes world-music exploration from roots up, to arrangements and performances of original composition, to internships and projects in remote under-represented communities around the globe, students develop into ambassadors for humanity. This is not an ethereal concept or group meditation on a “better world” but a hands-on curriculum that directs these young extra-ordinary musicians to park the “self” for a greater good. Pérez speaks to this part and emphasis in the program, “ When somebody has a gift, I believe he/she has a responsibility…you must have the desire to be a role model in society – and step away from your instrument.” BGJI offers a unique alternative approach to a discipline that has often focused more on developing self-achievement and acceptance based primarily on talent. Pérez keeps his mission and integrity close to the selection process, “you have to have the desire to experience the process of human development…fame is a four letter word.”

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Danilo Perez at piano – Photo by Kelly Davidson

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The Power of an All-Women Mariachi Band

Mariachi is “passed on from generation to generation,” says Mireya Ramos, a musician who lives in New York City. “It’s very traditional and very macho.” Ramos tells filmmaker Jenny Schweitzer that she had “negative experiences” with other bands—that is to say, with the men who performed in them—and decided to form Flor de Toloache, a seven-piece, all-women mariachi group. “For people who are used to seeing men play, we’re making a statement. We’re breaking that concept,” says Ramos.

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