NEWPORT – George Wein, the 83-year-old impresario who founded the Newport jazz and folk festivals a half-century ago, said today he intends to create a nonprofit organization to produce the festivals in the future as a way of ensuring that the legendary events “last forever.”
“It is my hope in the next few years that I might be able to make [the festivals] into a 501(c)3 nonprofit and have local people in the state and the city involved in it. That’s the only way it will last forever,” Wein told Providence Business News in what he said was the first public announcement of his plans.
In a telephone interview from his New York City office, Wein said it can be “difficult” to make money from the festivals, so when a promoter comes in “they get discouraged because they’re in it to make money.”
“I’m not in it to make money at this point,” Wein said. “Earlier in my life, yes, I needed to. But now I don’t need it.”
“The real future is to go nonprofit and make [the festivals] a great cultural center for the state of Rhode Island,” he added.
Wein noted that most cultural organizations are nonprofits, and said the festivals “really belong in that arena now.” He suggested that “it would not take too much subsidy to keep these festivals alive because they carry themselves, more or less.”
“If a promoter wants to make money, it’s very difficult, so you need people who want to put up a little bit of money and want to keep it alive for what it means for the community, what it means for music, you know, because both of [the festivals] are very important events for the musical world,” he said.
“They’re still beacons for what happens all around the world musically,” he said. “If you play the Newport Jazz Festival, the next thing you know you’re playing in festivals all over Europe.”
Wein said he has not yet worked out a definitive plan for creating a nonprofit corporation, but will begin to do so in earnest after this year’s festivals.
The festivals are scheduled to take place at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, with the folk festival slated for Aug. 1 and 2 and the jazz festival the following weekend, Aug. 7 to 9. Wein estimated that the two festivals will bring in as many as 30,000 people combined.
CareFusion Corp., a San Diego-based medical products company, is title sponsor for the jazz festival this year.
Wein began producing the two 2009 festivals in January even though there were no title sponsors until earlier this month, when CareFusion came forward for the jazz event, now in its 55th year.
There is no title sponsor for the folk festival, billed as “George Wein’s Folk Festival 50,” which began 50 years ago.