Well hello people...do you realize what a small world this is? First of all, we are using American dollars in Panama and most people speak a little, if not a lot of English. I'm having a blast getting my Spanish up and running and Panama is the perfect place to get re-acquainted. We are performing and teaching this time as part of Danilo Perez' Panama Jazz Festival and that makes the first leg of our ambassadorship different than anything we've done before. This has to be the biggest, most organized grass roots jazz festival of all time. The last few days has been pure pleasure and ease and it's been wonderful being involved. We gave a clinic on the subject of Jazz Ensembles to a group of serious jazz students of varying ages, instruments and abilities and we shared our ideas about what makes an ensemble work. As usual, I learn more by teaching and am always surprised by what I know and am able to impart. It was fun for us and a gift to get to share it. Most of the students attended the session on the same day that they auditioned for coveted spots for scholarships to Berkeley and New England Conservatory. Our clinic was sandwiched between Berkeley College and the Thelonius Monk Institute. Then we did an hour set closing the daytime concert at a small theatre in the convention center. Danilo brought up part of the audience to sit on the stage with us at the end of the show, saying to them, "now you can feel it!" That was Thursday...
Yesterday, Friday, we performed on the mainstage in Casco Viejo en frente de Catedral Metropolitana, a beautiful spot filled with noticeably content faces. The sound was great and when we hit the stage, which was enormous, it was charged. I decided to perform a tune I learned from my dear Chilean friend Lorena Gueny Jorguera which she taught me by rote in Spanish long ago by pop singer Roberto Carlos. I thought that people would know it and enjoy hearing it in a different context, and oh boy...the response was overwhelming to say the least... the appreciation roared and the applause during the tune almost covered the whole thing. We'll try to get the video up for you to see if we can find the right cable!!!!
Today, I got a good sunburn going sitting decadently as poolside in a ridiculously nice hotel on the water. We are surrounded by the elite in a country that has a 40% poverty rate and the poor are almost invisible to us. It's what you might expect of the dicotomy here. Tomorrow we will go see the canal and make a trip to the rainforest (get out of town a bit) before we venture to Nicaragua on Tuesday. That will be a different non-jazz festival view of what people are dealing with here.
Talk to you soon....Love, Kelley