NEA Jazz Master / Producer / Pianist
Jazz Impresario George Wein is considered to be as much a legend as his festivals. Through his company, Festival Productions, Inc. he has spearheaded hundreds of music events annually since 1954 when he produced the first Newport Jazz Festival - an event that started the "festival era," according to jazz critic Leonard Feather. He followed the success of America's first outdoor jazz festival with the Newport Folk Festival in 1959. Later, he pioneered the concept of sponsor association with music events; the Schlitz Salute to Jazz and the Kool Jazz Festival preceded any other sponsor identity with entertainment events, giving the sponsor the title presentation which guaranteed mention of the sponsor's name in publicity and promotion. His company went on to produce titled events for JVC, Mellon Bank, Verizon, Essence, Ben & Jerry's, CareFusion and others.
At 87, Wein has as much creative fuel as he did when he started the Newport festivals and advanced the concept of live music. In 2010, he founded Newport Festivals Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that will perpetuate the history of jazz and folk music in Newport and allow the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals to live on in perpetuity.
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. In 2012, Wein received the APAP Award of Merit for Acheivement in Performing Arts. In January, 2005, he was recognized with a Jazz Masters award as Jazz Advocate by the National Endowment for the Arts; in 2010, he was honored with the Pell Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Arts. In addition, honors and awards have been bestowed upon him by AARP, Studio Museum of Harlem, Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, New York Urban League, National Music Council, Pratt Institute, DownBeat magazine, The Jewish Advocate, Saint Peter's Jazz Ministry, WBGO/Jazz 88, Symphony Space and other organizations around the world. Mr. Wein was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame for his contributions to the musical heritage of the State of Rhode Island. He is a member of the Collegium of Distinguished Alumni of Boston University and is the recipient of the Centennial Medallion Citation from the Hampton Institute as well as 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. Mr. Wein was decorated with France's Legion d' Honneur for his creation of the contemporary jazz festival and was appointed Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres. In addition, he received the Bernardo O'Higgins Gran Oficial award, Chile's highest award for a foreign citizen.
In addition to his work as a producer, George Wein is an accomplished pianist whose group, the Newport All-Stars, has toured the United States, Europe and Japan. His band has featured some of the greatest musicians in the history of jazz music.
Mr. Wein's autobiography, Myself Among Others: A Life in Music (Da Capo Press) , has become a major reference on jazz history. In addition to his life in 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, and the Alexander Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Simmons College and the Joyce Alexander Wein Prize at the Studio Museum in Harlem.