Jazz and Heritage Foundation names cultural center after George and Joyce Wein

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George Wein at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundations dedication announcement.
  • George Wein at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation's dedication announcement.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation named its music education center under construction at 1225 N. Rampart St. The George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center.

“I always thought about buying a home in New Orleans because I am here so much,” Wein said at the press conference. “Now I have a permanent address here.”

In the 1950s, Wein created the Newport jazz and folk festivals, which became the prototypes for festivals featuring a lineup of multiple top musical talents. Eventually, he applied a similar formula to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival initiated in Congo Square in 1970. It featured Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson and many New Orleans jazz and brass bands.

In 44 years, it has grown to become one of the premier music and cultural festivals in the world. At the press conference marking the dedication to the Weins, Festival Productions President Quint Davis, who worked with Wein from the first festival, said that it has created an economic impact on the city in the billions of dollars.

New Orleans tourism officials first approached Wein about creating a jazz festival in New Orleans in 1962, but they dropped plans when he noted Duke Ellington would not be allowed to stay in the city’s segregated finer hotels. Wein’s marriage to Joyce, who was African American, was also a concern. “If I’d have brought her in 1962, they’d have put us in jail,” Wein said at the press conference. Officials approached Wein again in 1969, and his first Jazz Fest was held in 1970 in Congo Square, then called Beauregard Square.

Besides promoting jazz the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and festival are important institutions in the city. Former foundation board president Bill Rousselle said, “He created a cultural institution in New Orleans where black and white people were on equal footing.”

The foundation’s education center will house seven classrooms and a 200-seat theater.

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