The Newport Folk Festival, which, earlier this year, returned to its original roots as a nonprofit event, has taken another step that organizers say will help ensure that it “remains a significant, viable, and influential institution for years to come.” To further advance the dialogue with both established and emerging artists, the Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc. announced the creation of its Newport Folk Festival Board of Advisors. Named to the panel were Gillian Welch, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, and Ben Knox Miller of The Low Anthem.

“Each of these musicians personifies and enhances the spirit of the Newport Folk Festival, which honors past, present, and future icons of the ever-changing folk scene,” said George Wein, who chairs the foundation and who, along with Pete Seeger, co-founded the festival that has been held in or near the coastal Rhode Island resort city since 1959. The next Newport Folk Festival is set for July 28-29, 2012 at Fort Adams State Park.

Gillian Welch (Photo by Paxton X)

Each of the founding advisory board members has performed at the festival – several of them appeared this summer –and has a special connection that has bonded them to Newport, according to a Sept. 28 news release issued by the foundation. ”To attend the Newport Folk Festival is to be part of the unbroken chain of American music that connects Mother Maybelle Carter and Mississippi John Hurt to Bob Dylan and Bill Monroe, and Emmylou Harris and Mavis Staples,” maintains Gillian Welch, whose latest album, The Harrow & the Harvest, has topped the Roots Music Report Roots Country radio chart for weeks. “The scene is vibrant and diverse, the faces of folk change; and yet for 52 years, the Newport Folk Festival has succeeded in keeping us connected to our own living tradition.”

Adds Colin Meloy, “The importance and influence of the Newport Folk Festival is undeniable. I’m proud to be involved with the festival because I feel like it can have real and lasting relevance to a new generation of musicians.”

Besides interacting with other musical artists, Welch, Meloy and the other members of the festival’s new board of advisors will serve as talent scouts and will be a collective sounding board for the festival’s producers and organizers in helping to shape future festival lineups.

“Returning to our nonprofit status, it’s imperative that we have artists who can help us shape the future of this festival,” said Jay Sweet, the festival’s talent programmer and producer. “The connection the festival has with its artists and the music world is a characteristic that has enabled us to be successful and unique while presenting unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime, impromptu performances. Thanks to the support of these five advisors, we will remain relevant for another 50 years and beyond.”

The Newport Folk Festival was founded during the folk revival era and helped launch the careers of such artists as Joan Baez (who was introduced to the world by Bob Gibson at the inaugural event in 1959) and Bob Dylan during the 1960s. Financial problems forced its cancellation in 1970, and a last-minute license rescission by the Newport City Council the following year was followed by a 15-year hiatus. It was revived in 1985. Wein sold the production company that staged both the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals to Festival Network LLC in 2007. Realizing that financial concerns of the for-profit company and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s termination of its license agreement for running the festivals might sink both events, Wein stepped in to help keep the festivals afloat in 2009 and has been at their helm since then.