Danilo Pérez

Class of
Founder and Artistic Director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute

A Grammy Award winner, the pianist, composer, and producer Danilo Pérez is also an educator and social activist. He is a humanitarian and a leading proponent of global jazz.

Born in Panama in 1965, Pérez learned from his father the concept of interconnected education. He attended Berklee in the 1980s and has led his own groups since the early 1990s. He has also worked as a music educator in the U.S. and around the world for more than 20 years.

His music blends his Panamanian roots with elements of Latin American folk music, jazz, European impressionism, and African and other musical heritages that promote music as a multidimensional bridge between people. 

Pérez has collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Haynes, Lee Konitz , Steve Lacy, Jon Hendricks, Cassandra Wilson, Michael Brecker, Lizz Wright, Paquito D’Rivera, Tom Harrell, and Jack DeJohnette, to name a few. He has released 11 albums as a leader and appeared on many recordings as a side man, which has earned him critical acclaim and numerous accolades, including several Grammy Awards wins and nominations. 

Some highlights of his career include the following:

  • In 1989, he became the youngest member to join the Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra.
  • In 2000, he joined Wayne Shorter’s great quartet with John Patitucci and Brian Blade.
  • In 2009, he received the Smithsonian Latino Center’s Legacy Award.
  • In 2010, he founded the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI).
  • In 2014, he formed the Children of Light trio with Patitucci and Blade.
  • In 2018, he received the United States Artists Fellowship.
  • His work has been commissioned by the competition 2 Agosto in Italy as well as by Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Banff Centre, the Chicago and Detroit jazz festivals, and the Museum of Biodiversity in Panama, among many others.

Pérez's latest project is called Global Messengers and features BGJI alumni from around the world. Currently, he serves as a UNESCO Artist for Peace, a cultural ambassador for Panama, and the artistic director of the Panama Jazz Festival. He has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and received numerous awards for his social work in Latin America. 

Pérez is a Yamaha and Mack Avenue recording artist.   

Watch Pérez perform his original "Suite for the Americas" with Children of the Light, featuring John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums, as part of a BGJI clinic: