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George Wein Honored With U.S. Postal Cachet

George Wein Honored With U.S. Postal Cachet


George Wein, the founder of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, the Newport Jazz Festival, the Newport Folk Festival and many other events, is the honoree on the 28th annual United States Postal Service's Jazz Fest Postal Cachet. This highly collectible mailing envelope, embossed with the Jazz Fest logo and an image of the group, will be unveiled on April 21.

Mr. Wein, 90, is expected to perform at the unveiling ceremony, which is free and open to the public.

The ceremony takes place at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 21, at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center (1225 N. Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA 70116).

The 2016 Postal Cachet will be available for sale at the ceremony starting at 10 a.m. The cost is $15 each.

George Wein grew up in Boston and became a professional jazz pianist while still a teenager. In 1950, he opened a jazz club called Storyville, named after the New Orleans red light district.

In 1954, Wein was invited by Louis and Elaine Lorillard to Newport, Rhode Island. They funded the resulting Newport Jazz Festival, created by Wein, which became the first outdoor jazz festival in the United States and established the model for every major festival that followed.

Wein’s late wife, the former Joyce Alexander, was writing a jazz column for the Simmons College student newspaper when she met Wein in 1947. After graduating college at the age of 19, she started her career as a biochemist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and later worked in New York at Columbia Medical School.

Joyce and George married in 1959, after which she gave up her scientific career and became vice president of their company, Festival Productions, Inc., and a partner with George in all of their business ventures. She passed away in 2005 at age 76.

New Orleans business and tourism leaders first contacted George Wein about starting a festival here in 1962. It took eight years (including two years of attempts to establish a festival without the Weins), but in 1970 George and Joyce’s Festival Productions was named the producer of the “New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Louisiana Heritage Fair,” which debuted on April 22 of that year.

It was George Wein who insisted that the festival would be centered at Congo Square, would focus on New Orleans music and heritage, and would have as much emphasis on food and art as it would on music – values that still haven’t changed.

Wein was happy that it was a nonprofit enterprise; the festival would be owned by a new foundation with a mission to use the festival’s proceeds for year-round promotion and development of the city’s musical culture.

It was historian Richard Allen of Tulane University’s Hogan Jazz Archive who introduced Wein to a young man named Quint Davis and his then-girlfriend Allison Miner. Both would become key organizers of the early Jazz & Heritage Festivals, with Quint going on to become the festival’s producer/director and head of Festival Productions’ New Orleans office. He remains the chief architect of Jazz Fest to this day.

Although the Jazz Fest got off to a slow start, it moved from Congo Square to the Fair Grounds in 1972, gradually gaining steam until the mid-’70s, when it began to assert its potential as a cultural and financial cornerstone for its home city.

Today, Jazz Fest has a $300 million annual economic impact on New Orleans, and the Jazz & Heritage Foundation uses proceeds from the festival for year-round programs in education, economic development and cultural enrichment. The Foundation also owns radio station WWOZ and the Jazz & Heritage Archive.

On Dec. 11, 2014, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation opened the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center, a state-of-the-art education and cultural facility that is also the first-ever permanent home of the Foundation’s main education program, the Don “Moose” Jamison Heritage School of Music.

The U.S. Postal Service's Jazz Fest Postal Cachet program began in 1989 with a commemorative envelope featuring Professor Longhair. The list of honorees is:

2016  George Wein
2015  The Meters
2014  Rebirth Brass Band
2013  Trombone Shorty
2012  Kermit Ruffins
2011  The Marsalis Family
2010  Louis Prima
2009  Mahalia Jackson
2008  Deacon John Moore
2007  Harry Connick, Jr.
2006  Art Neville
2005  The Dixie Cups
2004  Aaron Neville
2003  Ernie K-Doe
2002  Ellis Marsalis, Jr.
2001  Dr. John
2000  The Neville Brothers
1999  Fats Domino
1998  Allen Toussaint
1997  Sidney Bechet
1996  Doc Cheatham
1995  Buddy Bolden
1994  Louis Armstrong
1993  Pete Fountain
1992  Irma Thomas
1991  Danny Barker
1990  Jelly Roll Morton
1989  Professor Longhair

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.