In 1950, at age 24, singer-pianist George Wein discovered his true calling. That's when he set up a tiny club in Boston with $5,000 in savings and began booking jazz musicians on a weekly basis. Four years later, he launched the Newport Jazz Festival, which is credited with popularizing music that, until then, had mostly been heard in smoky nightclubs around the country.
Along the way, Wein helped friends like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis develop global followings. In 2004, the Newport festival celebrated its 50th birthday with an acclaimed return to the music's roots. As founder and CEO of Festival Productions, Wein oversees a dozen festivals staged in numerous cities around the world, including a stop in Tokyo, launched in 2004; the flagship JVC Jazz Festival in New York City; and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, a national treasure.
"I can never retire," says the 79-year-old jazz impresario, allowing fans of live music everywhere to heave a collective sigh of relief.
*The name of this award was originally the Impact Award. In 2008, the awards were renamed as the Inspire Awards.