A Letter from Jay

Dear Folk,

Like many of you, I’m preparing for my annual pilgrimage to Newport. I can’t quite explain it, but it all seems like a heightened dream state that we have this chance, yet again, to commune with each other over this shared love of music for music’s sake. That frenetic energy last year, our first year back after years altered and halted by the pandemic, seems to have evolved into something new. A chance to reset and renew our commitment to why we do what we do.

I’ve tried to convey—now more than ever—that these Festivals represent a celebration of the work we do year-round. From schools to hospitals to camps to prisons and everywhere in between, we’ve been able to give back to our music community by providing instruments, lessons, and support. All the while striving to ensure that we have a safe space to enjoy the gift of live music ourselves. Something that seems harder to do in today’s world.

This work, the day-to-day effort, is what it’s all about. It’s not about one big gesture, one big artist, or one big moment, but the beauty of all the smaller moments combined that get us to this weekend. This is where the alchemy and, more importantly, the hope arises.

So before we all come together next week, I have a few things I want to ask of you:

I encourage you to be present. With any artist, on any stage, no matter the size: be in the moment with them. Let them see the emotions in your face and not the backside of your phone. To many, this is their “moment.” You play the biggest part in manifesting it.

I encourage you to be open. If an artist piques your interest, stay a while. There is no rush. Don’t run; stroll or amble instead. Find your new favorite band, or even better, find six or seven.

I encourage you to be kind. Show someone the ropes if they’ve never been, remember you had a first time at the Fort once, too. Give up your seat, explain the High-Five line, buy someone their first Del’s, come early and join the open mic. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. You all have something in common, so it should be easy.

Finally, I encourage you to be together. After the last few years, this is something I don’t think any of us take for granted. It’s a joy to be surrounded by this community. You, the folk, are what makes our historic hang truly unique. I’d be there even if nobody was scheduled to perform, just to simply commune with you all.

The hope is that when we do come together, we strengthen our community in more ways than one. Our shared love of music has a healing power, something we can’t always explain, but we all know it when it happens. I don’t know about you, but I’m waiting with open arms.


Jay Sweet, Executive Director of the Newport Festivals Foundation