[Dixielandjazz] George Wein and The Newport Festivals

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Mar 4 07:30:43 PST 2009

Who would have thought the Newport Jazz Festivals might die?  
Especially the JVC form in New York City during the last 2 weeks of  
June? (see next to last paragraph)
I hope George Wein, at 83, still has"it" and will be able to  
resuscitate them.

Steve Barbone

March 4, 2009 - NY TIMES - by Ben Ratliff
Wein Seeks to Regain Control of Newport Festivals

Amid rumors of an uncertain future for the Newport jazz and folk  
festivals, the veteran jazz concert producer George Wein — who founded  
them in the 1950s but ceded control over them two years ago — Tuesday  
gained permission to negotiate to regain them.

He said he intended to hold the festivals at Fort Adams State Park,  
their usual site in Newport, R.I., but the names of the festivals, the  
corporate name that Mr. Wein might use and a corporate sponsor are  
still undecided.

Mr. Wein is returning as a festival producer in altered circumstances.  
After pioneering the outdoor jazz-festival business and serving as  
boss for dozens of international festivals, he has in recent years  
seemed content to assume a back-seat position. In 2007 the Festival  
Network LLC, a new business under the leadership of the entrepreneur  
Chris Shields, bought the assets of Mr. Wein’s company, including the  
trademarks of the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, for a figure in the  
low millions, while giving him a salaried producer-emeritus position  
within the company. Mr. Wein said he had not been paid since Nov. 15.

Since 2007 the Festival Network aggressively pursued the concept of  
mixed-genre destination festivals, in vacation spots like Jackson  
Hole, Wyo.; Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., and Whistler, British Columbia.  
But The Providence Journal-Bulletin and The Boston Globe have reported  
recently that the company lost millions of dollars last year and at  
least until January was in debt to the Rhode Island Department of  
Environmental Management for last year’s use of Fort Adams State Park.  
Mr. Shields was not available for comment. John Phillips, who has  
helped produce the festivals for 30 years under Mr. Wein and Mr.  
Shields, said the Festival Network had recently paid off its debts;  
this was confirmed by Larry Mouradjian, the associate director of  
natural resources for the department.

However, according Mr. Mouradjian, the department declared the  
Festival Network’s license agreement for running the festivals in Fort  
Adams Park null and void because of the late payment. This, according  
to Mr. Mouradjian, “opened the door for us to be able to look for an  
alternative” producer to hold jazz and folk festivals at the park.

Talks began with Mr. Wein, and on Tuesday, at a meeting of the Rhode  
Island State Properties Committee in Providence, Mr. Wein received  
approval to negotiate a new music-festival license agreement for the  
use of Fort Adams State Park with the state.

Mr. Wein said that he would like to put on his Newport festivals with  
or without a sponsor, even though he knows he would lose money without  

It remains to be seen whether the annual end-of-June jazz festival in  
New York — produced for years by Mr. Wein’s company and then by the  
Festival Network — will be presented at all, or in reduced form.

At the moment, Mr. Wein, 83, said, his ambitions were limited. “The  
easiest thing for me would be to run away, but I got a few more years  
to live,” he said, adding that he’s going to go back in business  
primarily to save Newport. “In my mind, it’s just a matter of  
preserving my legacy.”

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list