The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation named its new music education center after George Wein at a May 3 ceremony in Treme.
In the 1950s, Wein created the Newport jazz and folk music festivals, which became the prototypes for festivals featuring multiple musical talents and the formula behind the first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 44 years ago. Wein was first approached about creating a festival in New Orleans in 1962, but tourism officials dropped plans when Wein noted bandleader Duke Ellington would not be allowed to stay in the city's segregated finer hotels. Wein's marriage to his wife Joyce Wein — he is white, she is black — was also a concern. "If I'd have brought her in 1962, they'd have put us in jail," Wein said at the ceremony.
Former foundation president Bill Rousselle said, "He created a cultural institution in New Orleans where black and white people were on equal footing." Festival Productions President Quint Davis said the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival's economic impact on the city since its inception has totaled billions of dollars.
The George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center at 1255 N. Rampart St., which is beginning construction, will house seven classrooms and a 200-seat theater. — WILL COVIELLO