Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Seeking fresh talent – and honoring Dr. Fast Hands

This is the 16th consecutive year that faculty members from Boston’s Berklee College of Music will jet to San Juan for one of its (now global) outreach programs. Berklee in Puerto Rico will provide classes and award $300,000 in scholarships for young musicians to attend Berklee. Saxophonist Miguel Zenon, a participant in Berklee in Puerto Rico’s first year, is one of more than 100 such scholarship recipients from Puerto Rico.

This year, more than 200 young musicians will take part in the program June 1 to 6 at Escuela de Bellas Artes de Carolina. And on the final day of the jazz education program, a group of top students will perform as the opener at the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest’s final evening at the Tito Puente Amphitheater in San Juan. (This year’s festival runs June 3 to 6.)

Berklee will also honor Puerto Rico’s strong musical roots that evening by awarding an honorary doctor of music to percussionist, composer and bandleader Giovanni Hidalgo (pictured).

The Puerto Rico native is considered one of the best conga players of his generation - and possibly the fastest. Hidalgo, a member of late trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie’s adventurous United Nation Orchestra, taught in Berklee’s percussion department from 1992 to 1996.

Hidalgo will receive his honorary degree in a terrific festival spotlight: between sets of the festival’s finale. It is a big band extravaganza featuring 10 special guests: Eddie Gomez, Dave Valentín, Paquito D’Rivera, Michel Camilo, Alex Acuña, Eddie Palmieri, Chick Corea, Andy González, Gato Barbieri - and conguero Hidalgo.

That evening figures to be a dandy - and a great way to put a wrap on the festival's 20th annual edition.

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