Berklee College of Music will present Luis Alvarez, vice president of Mendez & Company, Inc., and executive producer of the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest, with the George Wein Impresario Award at the festival’s 25th anniversary on March 29. Named after Newport Jazz Festival founder Wein, the award recognizes individuals who bring music to life through their dedication to discovering, mentoring, presenting, and promoting creative musicians and their music. Larry Simpson, senior vice president for Academic Affairs/Provost, will present the award with Wein on the festival’s main stage.
“The Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest is one of my favorite jazz events in the world,” said Wein. “My friend Luis has done remarkable things for jazz in Puerto Rico, and in America by promoting jazz from Puerto Rico here. He accomplishments are quite unique.”
Alvarez graduated from Berklee as a bass principal after earning his B.B.A. at Notre Dame. Since 1992 he has served as vice president of Mendez & Company, Inc., a major Puerto Rican food and beverage distribution company, where he began working in 1985. In 1990, Alvarez took the reins of the San Juan JazzFest and under his leadership, Mendez & Company established the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest, making the event the premier jazz festival in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
Alvarez is a vital link between Spanish and Latin American communities and Berklee. He was instrumental in creating the Berklee in Puerto Rico educational program in 1995, an annual weeklong event that brings Berklee faculty to San Juan to train young students and award scholarships. More than 2,900 students have attended the program, including Miguel Zenón, a recent MacArthur Fellowship recipient. Alvarez and Mendez & Company have awarded $350,000 in scholarships to students from the Berklee in Puerto Rico program or study at Berklee. He is a former member of Berklee’s board of trustees, and current vice chair of the Berklee Valencia Advisory Board.
This year’s Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest features Berklee alumni Abraham Laboriel, Sr.; Julio Alvarado; and Antonio Sánchez; among others, and Berklee honorary doctorate recipients Eddie Palmieri, Giovanni Hidalgo, Eddie Gómez, Giovanni Tommaso, and Michel Camilo. Larry Monroe, former vice president of international programs, will lead a faculty band at the festival.