Guitar Donation Presented in Honor of Newport Festivals Foundation’s Producer Emeritus, Bob Jones
The Claiborne Pell Elementary School After-School Guitar Club has something special to look forward to when the new school year begins in the Fall. In honor of Producer Emeritus Bob Jones and his nearly six decades with the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals, Newport Festivals Foundation donated 10 Yamaha JR1 3/4 Scale Guitars with Gig bags to the Newport school on June 26.
The guitars will be used to teach mostly fourth-grade students about parts of the instrument, simple theory, tablature, chords and songs. The donation also will allow students to take the instruments home to practice as well as to present periodic performances for parents and the after-school community at Pell. The after-school program services 8-10 students per session.
“Bringing guitars into Newport’s elementary school speaks to the Foundation’s mission of making music accessible to children,” said Krista Sturtevant, Newport Festivals Foundation Development Director. “The students were all very willing to share their tunes with us, including ‘Frere Jacques’ as well as some impromptu chords. Many of them have taken lessons for months while others just recently started, but they all are eager to begin their next music adventures using the new guitars.”
The Newport Festivals Foundation fosters the legacy and expands the impact of its Festivals through educational initiatives that celebrate innovation, while preserving the deep traditions inherent in Jazz and Folk music. Across New England, the Foundation’s goal is to foster opportunity, inspire through exposure and facilitate the collection of resources needed for musicians to celebrate and innovate. The focus on creating unique experiences to spark engagement is accomplished through a variety of initiatives, including instrument drives and performances at schools throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
About Bob Jones: Bob Jones’s career in folk music began in his hometown. Born in Boston in 1937, he attended Boston University and became involved in the Cambridge-Boston folk music scene as a singer, player, hoot-organizer, occasional dish-washer, and (most of all) a big fan of the music. He served in the US Army Medical Corp, and upon his return to Boston, folklorist Ralph Rinzler asked Bob to help him find traditional singers in the American South and the Maritime Provinces. The pair made several trips over a two-year period, discovering phenomenal artists and encouraging them to perform at the Newport Folk Festival from 1963 onward. The musicians Jones and Rinzler brought north–Doc Watson, among them, but also shape note singers, Cajun artists, prisoners in Texas–joined an array of better-known bands showcasing their sound at Newport. Great blues musicians like Mississippi John Hurt, Chuck Berry, and B. B. King performed. New folk artists emerged at that time, including Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. The Folk Festival in those early days was wildly diverse, bringing together many different strains of the American musical tradition.
Joyce Wein, George Wein’s wife, invited Bob to join their new company, Festival Productions, and Bob never looked back. He continued working on the Folk Festival and began a rich career in jazz, helping produce the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport and New York, and leading tours for Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Sarah Vaughan, among others. For decades, he shepherded musicians from bandstand to bandstand in Europe, Burma (now Myanmar), Siberia, Africa, India, Japan—all over the world. He managed performances at small country fairs and grand orchestra halls, at baseball stadiums and Russian cathedrals, on riverboats and at presidential inaugurations. For nearly a decade, he produced the Kool Jazz Festivals in stadiums across America, with iconic jazz, soul and R&B artists, including the O’Jays, Gladys Knight, The Jackson Five, and many others. He was a founding staff member of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and married his wife Marguerite while posted in France to help the Weins launch the Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice.
Bob’s love of folk and American roots music never waned, and he worked for years to promote bluegrass artists, including Bill Monroe and a young Alison Krauss, whom he helped bring to national prominence in the early days of her career. In 1985, he became the producer of the revived Newport Folk Festival, which for more than twenty years brought traditional American music back to the Newport stage—gospel, Cajun, blues, old-style country and mountain string music, New Orleans brass bands, and world music—alongside internationally renowned artists such as James Taylor, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, and Joan Armatrading, iconic American bands such as Little Feat, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Wilco, and The Band, and exciting voices in contemporary songwriting, such as Shawn Colvin, Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin, and Conor Oberst.
Through it all, Bob was supported by George and Joyce Wein and colleagues who include Darlene Chan, Deborah Ross, and Quint Davis. Among his favorite musical memories are the blues workshops at the ’63 folk festival with Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James; a Sarah Vaughan concert in Paris; a Sacred Concert with Duke Ellington in Barcelona; Alison Krauss’s Newport debut at age fourteen, Bob Dylan’s return to Newport in 2002; and a Woody Guthrie tribute led by Jimmy LeFave that featured the great Pete Seeger singing a medley of Woody’s children’s songs. But Bob is always looking ahead, to the next musical moments.
The sold-out Newport Folk Festival (www.newportfolk.org) is set for July 28-30 at Fort Adams State Park, followed by Bridgefest (www.newportbridgefest.com), produced at locations throughout Newport July 31 – August 3. The Newport Jazz Festival presented by Natixis Global Asset Management (www.newportjazz.org) takes place August 4-6 at Fort Adams State Park and the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino.
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