Music festival impresario George Wein, founder of the Newport Folk Festival, received the Award of Merit for Achievement in Performing Arts from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) on Jan. 9. The award is bestowed on an individual whose genius, energy and excellence have defined or redefined an art form for today’s audiences.

Citing what he called “a staggering career” and calling him “a towering icon among icons,” Mike Ross, the outgoing chair of APAP’s board of directors, presented the award to Wein during an awards ceremony and luncheon at the Hilton New York in Manhattan, a highlight of the 55th Annual APAP Conference that took place there and at venues around the city, Jan. 6-10.

George Wein (Photo: Steve Ramm)

“I think it’s wonderful that they acknowledged a jazz promoter,” said Wein. “It’s nice to know that people recognize some of the things that you did in your life that you didn’t know were so important at the time.” A pioneer among producers of outdoor music festivals, Wein, 86, created the renowned Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 and the Newport Folk Festival, which has been held in or near the coastal Rhode Island resort city since 1959. Both festivals are now produced under the umbrella of the nonprofit Newport Festivals Foundation that Wein founded in 2010.

The Newport Folk Festival, slated this year for July 28-29 at Fort Adams State Park, has featured a wide array of established and emerging artists over the years and helped to launch the careers of such artists as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan during the 1960s. Pete Seeger was among the folk luminaries who backed Wein when he launched the Newport Folk Festival. “Working with Pete has been one of the joys of my life and it’s influenced me in my relationships with people and artists in general,” Wein told “It’s because of that that I became deeply involved with the traditions of folk music.”

An accomplished jazz pianist and an executive board member of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Wein also is the author of Myself Among Others: A Life in Music (Da Capo Press), an autobiography that has become a major reference on jazz history.

“Jazz came out of a folk tradition, although they [jazz and folk music] went in different directions as years went by,” said Wein. He noted that the relationship between the two was the impetus behind the popular New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival that he also created.

Wein has been honored by many organizations, educational institutions, publications and heads of state over the years. As previously reported on, he received the first Power of Song Award during a benefit concert last October for Clearwater, a nonprofit organization launched by Seeger and others more than 40 years ago.

Wein, who was recognized with a Jazz Masters award as Jazz Advocate by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005, also participated in an hour-long panel discussion “NEA Jazz Masters & Jazz Futures: Playing It Forward,” that preceded the awards luncheon. Wein also has been honored by White House celebrations under Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and received France’s highest honor (the Legion d’Honneur) as well as the Bernardo O’Higgins award from the president of Chile.

The Association of Performing Arts Presenters is a Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit service and advocacy organization dedicated to developing and supporting a robust performing arts presenters field and the professionals who work within it. More information on the association may be found online at A report on some of the many workshops and artist showcases that took place during the APAP Conference will be posted on in coming days.