On Friday, Nov. 12, President Michael A. Fitts welcomed four members of the Tulane community who have made significant contributions to the music and entertainment industry.
The Presidential Speakers Series: “Notable Tulanians” was an opportunity for Fitts to sit down and talk with Quint Davis (UC ’70), CEO of Festival Productions and producer of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival; Julie Greenwald (NC ’91), chairperson and chief operating officer of Atlantic Records; Gwen Thompkins (NC ’87), writer, freelance journalist and host of WWNO’s Music Inside Out; and Greg Williamson, co-founder of RWE Partners and creator of the benefit concerts The Tipping Point and Love Rocks NYC.
CEO, Festival Productions, Inc.-New Orleans
Producer/Director, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Chairman/COO, Atlantic Records
Writer, freelance journalist, and host of public radio’s Music Inside Out
Co-founder, RWE Partners & Producer of Love Rocks NYC, The Tipping Point & other charitable concerts
Established in 2019 by Tulane University President Michael A. Fitts, the Presidential Speaker Series brings world-renowned individuals to Tulane, generating discussion and providing an opportunity for our community to learn from distinguished professionals with unique perspectives, talents and stories. We are pleased to provide community members the opportunity to hear from and interact with the nation’s foremost thought leaders.
FESTIVAL PRODUCTIONS, INC. - NEW ORLEANS (FPINO)
Quint Davis is the CEO of Festival Productions Inc.–New Orleans and the producer and director of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, one of the world’s great festivals. For more than 50 years, his efforts have been instrumental in the growth of the Jazz & Heritage Festival, bringing to international prominence an event showcasing Louisiana music, food and crafts. The annual economic impact of Jazz Fest is approximately $400 million to the city of New Orleans.
Starting in 1970, Davis has been associated with George Wein, the impresario who has produced thousands of events since 1954, including the seminal Newport Jazz Festival and the Newport Folk Festival. Since 2004 he has guided FPINO into the development and presentation of innovative and highly successful events in partnership with AEG Presents.
TWO PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATIONS
Davis served as producer/director of America’s Reunion on the Mall, a two-day, multi-stage festival as part of the 1993 United States Presidential Inaugural Celebration. One million people attended the event on the National Mall between Capitol Hill and the Washington Monument. In January of 1997, Festival Productions, Inc.-New Orleans once again produced a festival for the 53rd Presidential Inauguration. An American Journey, with four stages, two food tents and a technology pavilion, entertained approximately a half a million people over two days on the National Mall.
ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL
Davis designed and produced, in conjunction with Essence Magazine, the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans from its inception in 1995, when the event celebrated the magazine’s 25th anniversary, through 2007. Under his stewardship the event became widely regarded as the biggest and best annual celebration of African-American music and culture.
POST-HURRICANE KATRINA PRODUCTIONS
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (August 29, 2005)—the greatest natural disaster in the history of the United States—Davis’ production acumen and creative drive would prove invaluable to relief efforts and the revival of New Orleans. On September 20, 2005, less than one month after the storm struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, Davis and his staff co-produced the benefit concert From the Big Apple to the Big Easy at Madison Square Garden in New York City, featuring Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel, Jimmy Buffett, Dave Matthews, and many others, including a host of New Orleans artists.
The Superdome, the site of some of the most emotional events surrounding the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, reopened on September 25, 2006. Davis and Festival Productions co-produced the opening musical ceremony featuring U2 and Green Day prior to the New Orleans Saints NFL Football game versus the Atlanta Falcons. ESPN’s broadcast of this Monday Night Football game would be the most-watched show in the network’s history.
NFL AND NBA EVENTS
Davis and Festival Productions have produced several important special events for both the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. In 2008, in conjunction with the NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, FPINO produced a parade, a major media party and the music portions of the televised halftime show.
In 2010, FPINO produced the NFL Kickoff “Back to Football” celebration, a unique production that included building a state-of-the-art stage in front of Jackson Square, crowd sound systems and viewing screen bridges over a normally busy city thoroughfare. The show featured performances by Grammy- winning artists Taylor Swift and the Dave Matthews Band, plus an NFL-themed, full-scale Mardi Gras parade, all playing to a live audience of over 100,000 people and to millions more who watched the broadcast live on CBS. In 2013, the NFL again chose FPINO to produce one of its signature events, this time as a part of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans: Verizon Super Bowl Boulevard, a free four-day, multi-stage festival attended by over 150,000 people.
21st CENTURY VISION
In 2010, keying into the earliest signs that country music was becoming mainstream American popular music, Davis created and produced, in association with his partner AEG Presents, the inaugural Bayou Country Superfest in Baton Rouge, LA, the first-ever event of its kind in the region, and the first live music event ever held in historic LSU Tiger Stadium. Tens of thousands of fans enjoyed country’s top performers including Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and many others.
Following the successful Bayou Country Superfest model, the FPINO and AEG partnership has also produced the Florida Country Superfest at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL, and the Buckeye Country Superfest at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. In 2016, FPINO and AEG created another major new country music festival in called Country 500—The Great American Music Fest at Daytona, held at the world-famous Daytona International Speedway.
With more than four decades’ experience, Davis, along with his company, has demonstrated a commitment to fashioning some of the most original, meaningful, enduring, and unforgettable special events in the entertainment industry.
Julie Greenwald joined Atlantic Records as President in 2004 and was named Chairman/COO in 2009. The New York native began her music career in 1992 at Def Jam Records, and just a decade later, she was named President of Island Records, becoming one of the rare women to hold that title at a major label. When Greenwald moved to Atlantic, it marked the second time in her career that she was charged with helping rebuild an iconic brand.
In 1998, when PolyGram was purchased by Seagram and merged with the latter’s Universal Music Group, Greenwald was charged with overseeing the entire marketing department of the newly formed Island Def Jam Music Group. “That was really my first entry into rock,” she notes, “but I felt confident, because of all my experiences with our hip-hop artists… We knew that Limp Bizkit and Korn were in the same CD players as Jay-Z and DMX.” Throughout the ’90s, Julie helped the label land dozens of platinum and gold records.
When Greenwald was officially named President of Island Records/EVP of the Island Def Jam Music Group in January 2002, she became one of only three women holding that title at a major record label.
When her mentor Lyor Cohen moved to Warner Music Group, he presented Greenwald with a fresh challenge – to play a central role in the reinvention of one of the industry’s most venerable labels. With her arrival at Atlantic Records in early 2004, Julie brought hands-on experience, creative spirit, and motivating energy to her new home – beginning a new phase of an already exceptional career. Joining her new partner Craig Kallman, she quickly became the driving force behind the company’s newly aggressive marketing and digital strategies.
Greenwald has become one of the industry’s most admired executives, widely recognized not only for her business and creative acumen, but for her down-to-earth, super-motivating approach to her staff and her artists alike. She has been ranked five times in the No. 1 position on Billboard's “Women in Music/Power Players” list as well as being featured as one of The Hollywood Reporter's “Power 100 Women in Entertainment”, Forbes’ “Power Women to Watch” and on Newsweek's “Women In Leadership” roster.
Greenwald’s artist-focused marketing and culture-building savvy has driven Atlantic to its greatest success in more than two decades. Greenwald, along with partner, Craig Kallman has re architected the company from the ground up, reaching industry-leading status through the reinvention of the label as a game-changing, music-driven company with a passionate devotion to long-term artist development. An innovator in the digital music sphere, Atlantic was the first label to earn more than half of its total music sales from digital releases.
Greenwald has helped advance the careers of an eclectic and hugely successful roster of top-selling artists, including Bruno Mars, Rob Thomas, Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson, Ed Sheeran, James Blunt, Gucci Mane, Jason Mraz, Death Cab for Cutie, Paramore, Lil Uzi Vert, Janelle Monae, Trey Songz, Shinedown, Flo Rida and Wiz Khalifa among many others.
Gwen Thompkins is an award-winning journalist in New Orleans and host of the weekly public radio program Music Inside Out. She has a B.A. in Soviet Studies and history from Newcomb College and began her career in journalism at the Times-Picayune newspaper. As a print reporter and editor, she covered stories across Louisiana and in Europe. Thompkins was the longtime senior editor of NPR's Weekend Edition with Scott Simon, directing coverage of national politics, international news, culture and the arts. As an NPR foreign correspondent and bureau chief, she filed stories from across the African continent, and also from Antarctica. In 2011, she was a Nieman Foundation for Journalism fellow at Harvard University.
Music Inside Out is a long-form interview program showcasing the unusually varied cultural landscape of Louisiana and its impact on American and world music. Guests of the program talk in-depth about their histories and influences. They also demonstrate musical lessons and connections between genres. Thompkins is the show’s executive producer and host, conducting interviews with soul queen Irma Thomas, bounce artist Big Freedia, the late hit-making producer Allen Toussaint, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, the Rebirth Brass Band, the electronic dance duo Sylvan Esso, Taj Mahal and symphony conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto, among others. The program also has produced documentaries on Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Danny Barker and Louis Armstrong. In 2016, Thompkins wrote the introduction to the reissue of Barker's memoir A Life in Jazz.
Thompkins regularly contributes stories to NPR Music and the NPR news magazines Weekend Edition, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She also has written stories for the Library of Congress Recording Registry, Smithsonian Folkways and The New Yorker online.
Greg Williamson has a passion for music and the arts and an unﬂagging belief in the power and importance of doing good, helping others, and bringing people together to eﬀectuate change. When Williamson dreams, he dreams big, but he also knows that in order to be successful, you must have equal parts ambition, creativity, discipline and practicality.It is with this mindset and practice that Williamson and his partners at RWE co-founded and executive produced some of the most well respected concerts across the country. From Love Rocks NYC and the Play On CBS TV special to The Tipping Point concert, the group has helped raised nearly 30 million dollars for causes such as education, hunger and racial justice.
Williamson is an active real estate investor and one of the country’s top brokers. A born and bred New Yorker, nothing gives him a greater sense of purpose than giving back and helping communities wherever and whenever possible. Greg currently sits on the Boards of God’s Love We Deliver, The CityParks Foundation and the Churchill School & Center.