George Wein speaks about Newport Jazz Festival’s nonprofit status
The Newport Jazz Festival, along with the Newport Folk Festival, will from now on be produced under the rubric of the Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc., a new 501(c)(3) organization. George Wein and his staff will remain in place as the festival producers.
After being held in 2010 as the CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival, the Newport organization is returning to its original nonprofit status — a change that will, in Wein’s view, also change the nature of the event. The festival, he said, “will stand by itself. It will not be part of a bigger business enterprise. The motivation changes. Now, success and artistic value are the values that count – ‘is it a great festival,’ not ‘did it make any money’?”
The change, Wein said, “definitely means we will be working with more emerging artists,” although occasionally there will be “an old favorite who means something to the audience and the younger musicians.” But he quickly added: “If the festival does not recognize that jazz is an ever-evolving art form, then it is not contributing to its growth.”
In the news release announcing the change in status, Wein described the festival’s performers as “musicians who follow the traditions of New Orleans, swing, bebop and modal as the heart of jazz music. In addition, the Foundation will honor the evolving cultural expression and freedom of creativity necessary to the growth and continuing vitality of the music.”
Wein believes the new status will enhance the festival’s ability to attract artists. Artist fees will not diminish, he emphasized, but “artists will be more willing to cooperate in performing in different ways. So far, they are not treating it as just another gig. There was a time that jazz fests had to be a ‘great show.’ That is still the case, but this is not the end in itself.”
The Newport Jazz Festival has been held continuously in Newport, Rhode Island, since 1954. Virtually every major jazz artist has performed there – from Miles Davis and Duke Ellington to Wynton Marsalis and Diana Krall, along with contemporary artists including the Bad Plus, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Jason Moran’s Bandwagon, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Gretchen Parlato and many more.
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