Reasons We Love Newport Folk Festival

Reasons We Love Newport Folk Festival

Adventures 09.15.22

One of the country’s oldest music festivals, Newport Folk has a long track record of legendary moments. This year’s event was one for the history books. Paul Simon showed up toward the end of a set paying homage to his music performed by Nathaniel Rateliffe and the Night Sweats. And on the final night, Brandi Carlile invited surprise guest Joni Mitchell onto a couch-strewn stage to join Marcus Mumford, Lucius, Allison Russell and other musicians for a 13-song singalong. These types of impromptu, all-star jam sessions have come to define the Newport Folk Festival over the years. “We’ve created a very, free, equal environment that fosters these once-in-a-lifetime collaborations,” says Billy Glassner, Director of Partnerships for the Newport Festivals Foundation. “What you see and hear at Newport doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

Music producer George Wein, with the help of folk great Pete Seeger, created the festival in 1959 as an offshoot of Newport Jazz Festival. In the early days, folk music was viewed through a narrow, traditionalist lens, so much so that Bob Dylan was booed for playing his electric guitar in 1965. This year’s bold lineup underscored the evolution of the genre, with performers ranging from blues artist Taj Mahal and country singer-songwriter Maren Morris to rock band, the National, and hip-hop group, the Roots. “Folk transcends genre,” says Glassner. “It’s an attitude and community. Our audience is so open minded. They trust in our ability to highlight new and emerging talent and come with an expectation of being surprised musically but also by our partnerships with people like the Fahertys.” 


The work of the Newport Festivals Foundation, the umbrella of the Folk and Jazz festivals, goes far beyond curating amazing events. We love the nonprofit’s mission to support emerging artists and foster music education in underserved communities. Over the years, proceeds from the festivals have helped fund hundreds of artist grants to musicians impacted by COVID and thousands of instrument donations to schools. 

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