Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Newport goes nonprofit, not for nothing

Last summer, founding producer George Wein said he wanted to find a way to keep his two legacy music festivals going well into perpetuity. This week, Wein, 85, in his sixth decade as a festival producer, made good on it.

The Newport Jazz Festival, which began in 1954, and the Newport Folk Festival, which started five years later, are returning to their roots as nonprofit events. Both will be produced by Wein and his staff under the auspices of Newport Festivals Foundation, Inx. a new 501(c)(3) organization with an 11-member board of directors.

"The foundation will perpetuate the history of jazz and folk music in Newport and will allow these festivals, which have been my passion and life's work, to live on," Wein said in a news release issued Tuesday by his firm, New Festival Productions. Wein told the New York Times' Ben Ratliff that he will continue to seek new corporate sponsors for both events.

This year's Newport Folk Festival is scheduled July 29-31, followed by the Newport Jazz Festival August 5-7.

The San Diego-based health care firm CareFusion stepped in at Newport as a jazz festival sponsor for the past two years, and for 2010 in New York, but has since refocused its outside interests.

The CareFusion alliance was a significant factor two years ago, enabling Wein to step back in and take back control of the two festivals, after Festival Network ran into financial troubles in late 2008, less than two years after buying Wein's original production firm. The original Festival Productions, which had a deep legacy of producing music events around the globe.

Now Wein is back in business on a much smaller scale, content to produce his two household name festivals in Newport and select other concerts and events.

The nonprofit status will enable the foundation to seek and receive tax-deductible contributions and build an endowment to keep itself going into the future. A gala fundraiser for the foundation is scheduled August 4 at Rosecliff, one of the fabled mansions along Newport's historic Bellevue Avenue. Jazz fan and occasional drummer Bill Cosby will host it.

I'm guessing Cosby will stick around for an appearance with one of his Cos' of Good Music all-star bands over the weekend.

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