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Remembering George Wein: Jazz Fest Founder Faced Obstacles When Forming New Orleans Music Event

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Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc.
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George Wein, seated, worked with different music experts to guarantee that the Jazz Fest lineup was stylistically diverse.

Musician George Wein, who founded the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1970, died Monday at the age of 95, according to a report from NPR.

He was best known for co-founding the Newport Jazz and Newport Folk Festivals in 1954 and 1959, respectively, which set the standard for the modern concept of outdoor music festivals to come.

It was through his Festival Productions Inc. company that he developed other music festivals and tours, such as New Orleans Jazz Fest and Essence Festival of Culture, reported the Times-Picayune.

The pianist and professor of jazz studies at Boston University encountered some obstacles, however, when bringing his festival concept to New Orleans to form what would become one of the most anticipated annual music events in the city.

In this interview conducted by Mark Cave for the Historic New Orleans Collection, Wein said that “prejudice never goes away; you just have to make it uncomfortable for the people who are prejudiced.” To hear what happened when George Wein walked into a bar with 10 priests, click the link below.

George Wein's Rocky Road To Jazz Fest
This story takes place during George Wein's second visit to New Orleans. Two years prior, he had met the mayor and other city officials to discuss the possibility of a festival, but the talks came to a standstill because of the city's Jim Crow laws.

Mark Cave is an oral historian and senior curator at the Historic New Orleans Collection.
Katelyn Umholtz is the digital editor for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of New Orleans.

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