Jazz Impresario George Wein is considered to be as much a legend as his festivals. He has spearheaded hundreds of music events annually since 1954, when he produced the first Newport Jazz Festival. He first studied music with the noted Margaret Chaloff in his native Boston and later was under the tutelage of Teddy Wilson at Juilliard. A professional pianist from his early teens, Wein led his own band in and around Boston, frequently accompanying visiting jazz musicians. In 1950, he opened his own club, Storyville, in Boston and formed a record label with the same name. He has long been an Earl Hines-inspired pianist (and an occasional vocalist), who is equally comfortable in bebop, swing and Dixieland-oriented settings. Wein has performed with Lester Young, Sidney Bechet and Buck Clayton, among others. Since the 1950s, he has toured and recorded with his Newport All-Stars, which has included cornetist Ruby Braff, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, and tenor saxophonists Bud Freeman. Today, his All-Stars feature some of the world's finest young talent including bassist Esperanza Spalding and saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen as well as seasoned musicians saxophonists Lew Tabackin and Scott Hamilton, cornetist Warren Vaché, guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli and Howard Alden, drummers Jimmy Cobb and Winard Harper, trumpeters Randy Brecker and Randy Sandke, bassists Peter Washington and Jay Leonhart and pianist Dick Hyman.
At 84, Wein has as much creative fuel as he did when he started the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 and the Newport Folk Festival in 1959 and advanced the business of live music. He also pioneered the concept of sponsor association with music events. The Schlitz Salute to Jazz and the Kool Jazz Festival preceded any other sponsor identity with entertainment events, and his company, Festival Productions, went on to produce titled events for JVC, Mellon Bank, Verizon, Essence, Ben & Jerry's and others. As a result of his diverse contributions to jazz and world culture, Wein has been honored by heads of state, educational institutions and leading publications. In January, 2005, he was recognized with a Jazz Masters award by the National Endowment for the Arts. Honors and awards have been bestowed upon him by AARP, Studio Museum of Harlem, Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, the Government of France, National Music Council, Pratt Institute, DownBeat magazine, Symphony Space, among others. He is a lifetime Honorary Trustee of Carnegie Hall and a member of the Board of Trustees at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Wein's autobiography, Myself Among Others: A Life in Music, was recognized by the Jazz Journalists Association as 2004's best book about jazz; the organization named Wein 2009's Events Producer of the Year. He has a long history of involvement with philanthropy and the arts, including the establishment of the Joyce and George Wein Chair of African American Studies at Boston University and the Alexander Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Simmons College.