George Wein, 2009
|Born||October 3, 1925|
Boston, Massachusetts, US
|Festival producer, concert promoter, musician|
|Ruby Braff, Howard Alden, Warren Vache|
George Wein (born October 3, 1925) is an American jazz promoter, pianist, and producer and is considered one of the most famous jazz impresarios in jazz history". He is the founder of what is probably the best-known jazz festival in the United States, the Newport Jazz Festival, which is held every summer in Newport, Rhode Island. He also co-founded the Newport Folk Festival with Peter Seeger and Theodore Bikel and was instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
The son of Jewish parents, Wein was born in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, in 1925. Wein was a jazz pianist in his youth. He graduated from Newton High School and attended Boston University, where he led a small group which played professionally around Boston. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he graduated from Boston University's College of Liberal Arts in 1950. During the same year, he opened the Storyville jazz club and established the Storyville record label. He also began to teach a course at Boston University on the history of jazz.
In 1954, Louis and Elaine Lorillard invited Wein to organize a festival in their hometown of Newport, Rhode Island, with funding to be provided by them; the festival was the first outdoor jazz festival in the United States and became an annual tradition in Newport. Wein was subsequently instrumental in the founding of a number of festivals in other cities, including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles, and established the Newport Folk Festival. In the 1960s he set up Festival Productions, a company dedicated to promoting large-scale jazz events.
George Wein married Joyce Alexander in 1959.
Wein pioneered the idea of corporate sponsorship for his events. His Schlitz Salute to Jazz and Kool Jazz Festival were the first jazz events to put sponsors in the title: Schlitz beer and Kool cigarettes. Festival Productions organizes the JVC Jazz Festival at Newport and JVC Jazz Festivals in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, Warsaw, and Tokyo. Other title sponsors of Festival Productions events include Mellon Bank, Essence magazine, Verizon, Ben & Jerry's, and Dunkin' Donuts.
Wein has received a wide array of honors for his work with jazz concerts. He received the Patron of the Arts Award from the Studio Museum of Harlem in 1995, and in 2004 was recognized with an Impact Award from the AARP. He was decorated with France's Légion d'honneur and appointed a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Commander of the Order of Arts and Literature) by the French government. He has been honored at the White House by two American presidents, Jimmy Carter in 1978 and Bill Clinton in 1993. In 2005 he was named a "Jazz Master" by the National Endowment for the Arts. His autobiography, Myself Among Others: A Life in Music was singled out as 2004's best book about jazz by the Jazz Journalists Association. Wein has received honorary degrees from the Berklee College of Music and Rhode Island College of Music, and is a lifetime Honorary Trustee of Carnegie Hall.
Wein is a distinguished member of the Board of Directors Advisory committee of the Jazz Foundation of America. He has also performed and presented at the Jazz Foundation's benefit concert "A Great Night in Harlem". He presented the Saint of Jazz award to Harry Elias of JVC America in 2002.