Panama Jazz Festival

Panama Jazz Festival
By James E. Sellars

People who don’t travel miss a lot of very interesting events. During a recent trip to Panama City I was sitting with my family at a well known restaurant, the Pomodor, enjoying some of their fine Italian food with my wife and kids, when a toddler wandered over to investigate. It turns out the child was the daughter of a famous jazz musician, Danilo Perez, of Panama. We recognized his face from the newspaper article announcing the second annual Panama Jazz Festival, to be held in the city January 19-21, 2006.

During the conversation that followed he invited me to come to the Curumbu Campus of Fine Arts at the University of Panama to take part in the music clinics put on by the Berkeley School of Music for the jazz musicians of Panama. It was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. See, I had brought my trumpet with me to Panama, having been invited to train with a local master during a previous visit. Music is very important in most Latin American countries, and certainly in Panama.

So there I was catching a cab to the University of Fine Arts to study music with some master instructors from one of the most renowned schools in the world. Walking in I was reminded that I am old compared to most people who go to a fine arts class, the halls were filled with young talents—musicians and dancers, singers, budding directors and producers. The air fairly tingled with talent.

Jazz Clinic
Things were running late so I began to mingle. Soon I was talking with a group of trumpet players who were warming up in the shade of a breezeway outside the main building. One fellow was a professional trumpet player from Costa Rica, very kind and friendly he invited me to warm up with them. The other fellow was a horn player from the city, who was making a very good living playing with a couple of different bands here. It was soon obvious that I was the only amateur who would be discussing the pentatonic scales and development of discordant arpeggios in jazz improvisation.

Although most of this was over my head I did meet some very nice fellows and witnessed some wonderful jazz trumpet from my fellow classmates, each of whom was a professional player and a talent unto themselves. The best of all however was being taught by a young name you must remember, Joshia Woodman, one of the Berkeley instructors. It was an experience I will treasure for a long time, and one I would encourage everyone to take in. You come to a beautiful warm country to enjoy terrific food and culture and listen to some of the best jazz in the world, all the while back at home the snow is howling outside and the temperature is freezing.

Jossia Woodman with James Sellar

Panama is friendly and inexpensive by North American standards. The Jazz Festival is a world class event that every music fan can enjoy as there are a number of shows throughout the three-day event. One of the concerts we attended was at the Convention Center, a modern theatre that could easily seat three thousand people, and what came through was that this country enjoys a very large, well-educated and prosperous middle class. Another event was the open air concert in the “casco vielo” at the Cathedral Square, where about ten thousand people joined in a wonderful day-long concert that had people tapping their feet and clapping late into the night.

For more information about the Panama Jazz Festival, or to make arrangements for next years festival contact Where you will be able to link up with Hotels and of course Danilo Perez, the promoter of the event.

More about Panama can be found on the Internet, but let me give you some of the important facts. Panama is a democracy, modeled on the American System, it is a Presidential republic. Panama has no military, uses the American dollar for its currency, thereby eliminating internal monetary abuses, and has no taxes on income earned ex Panama. The country is long and slender, running from East to West, while that famous canal runs North and South. There are over 5500 “panamax” transits per year, that is ships going through the canal that measure 100ft. beam or greater, the upper limit of the canal. By the way, this is the single biggest source of revenue for the little country. You will be interested to know that the smallest fee ever collected was 36 cents, a fellow swam through in 1936, and the largest ships today pay over $200K to make the passage.

The country has the same area as New Brunswick, but with three million people it is a very vibrant society with a bustling population, most of whom are in Panama City, on the Pacific Ocean. Investment opportunity abound both from a shipping distribution prospective, with the “Free Zone” in Colon at the Caribbean mouth of the canal, where all taxes are waived for value earned in the country, through real estate opportunities and tourism project developments that abound both in the city of Panama as in the countryside.

Speaking of the countryside, some of the sites that must be taken in include Bocas del Toro, an archipelago on the Caribbean, world renowned by the diving and surfer set, and Boquete in the mountains of Chiriqui, where cooler climate and coffee farms draw retirees from all over the world.

Take a look at our website for more info about lifestyle changes, investment and tax, and links to other sites with information about Panama. But most important make a trip to visit this wonderful little country now while it is still under the radar, and plan to take in the jazz festival next year, or the carnival coming soon. It will be a blast, hope to see you.

James E Sellars, B.A. (econ), CFP, is a Tax Accountant and Certified Financial Planner for Keybase Financial Group in Moncton, NB. Telephone (506) 856-7977, fax: (506) 859-8504 email: