George Wein, Founder & Chairman
George Wein is considered to be as much a legend as his festivals. Through his company, Festival Productions, he has spearheaded hundreds of music events since 1954 when he produced the first Newport Jazz Festival® – an event which started the festival era. Five years later, Wein and folk icon Pete Seeger founded the Newport Folk Festival®. In 1970, Wein founded the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. He pioneered the idea of sponsor association with music events, beginning with The Schlitz Salute to Jazz and the Kool Jazz Festival. His company went on to produce titled events for JVC, Mellon Bank, Verizon, Essence, Ben & Jerry’s and others.
As he approaches his 90th birthday, Wein has as much creative fuel as he did when he started the Newport festivals and advanced the concept of live music.
As a result of his diverse contributions to jazz and world culture, Wein has been honored by heads of state, educational institutions and leading publications. Wein is an NEA Jazz Master (Jazz Advocate), and in 2013 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and New Englander of the Year from the New England Council. In 2012 Wein was given the APAP Award of Merit for Achievement in Performing Arts for an individual “whose genius, energy and excellence has defined or redefined an art form”. In addition, honors and awards have been bestowed upon him by Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, AARP, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the French Legion d’Honneur, Chile’s Order of Bernardo O’Higgins and other organizations around the world. Wein is the recipient of honorary degrees from the Berklee College of Music, Rhode Island College of Music, Five Towns College and North Carolina Central. Mr. Wein is a lifetime Honorary Trustee of Carnegie Hall and a member of the Board of Trustees at Jazz @ Lincoln Center.
In addition to his work as a producer, George Wein is an accomplished jazz pianist , whose group, Newport All-Stars has toured the United States, Europe and Japan. Over the years, the Newport All-Stars has featured some of the greatest musicians in the history of jazz.
Mr. Wein’s autobiography, Myself Among Others: A Life in Music (Da Capo Press), which chronicles his life in jazz, was recognized by the Jazz Journalists Association as 2004’s best book about jazz. Mr. Wein has a long history of involvement with philanthropy and the arts, including the establishment of the Joyce and George Wein Chair of African American Studies at Boston University, the Alexander Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Simmons College and an annual artist prize given through the Studio Museum in Harlem in honor of his late wife, Joyce Alexander Wein.
Photo: George Wein and the Newport All-Stars, 2010 Newport Jazz Festival, ©Ayano Hisa